PeerJ Takes a Different Path

Is the end of PeerJ's journey emblematic? And what lessons can we draw?

Launched with boasts of lower costs, new standards, and a social mission, and after more than a decade of gradually transforming yet seeming stuck in second gear, PeerJ has taken a turn and sputtered into the the large, cluttered garage of Taylor & Francis (T&F), a company that seems to enjoy shopping the market of the quirky or pedestrian, hoping one will prove to be a real treasure.

There, PeerJ will be parked next to two other recent acquisitions — the troubled F1000 and the overtly conflicted Future Science Group.

  • Strategically, at least T&F is spreading their risk.

PeerJ started in 2012 with an initial investment of US$950K from O’Reilly Media’s O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV). In 2014, partly attracted by the then-hip feeling of a Silicon Valley VC vibe — VCs having become far less important now 10 years later — Sage Publishing provided PeerJ an additional round of funding with an undisclosed value, granting Sage a seat on the PeerJ board.

There are parallels worth pondering between PeerJ and another 2012 OA journal launch, eLife. Both launched around the same time but with different types of hype — eLife was an effort to make an OA “glamour journal,” PeerJ an attempt to make OA publication ridiculously affordable. Mark Patterson left PLOS prior to helping to found eLife, while Peter Binfield left PLOS to found PeerJ with Jason Hoyt. (Hoyt also apparently provided some seed funding.)

The eLife and PeerJ streams would also cross — like blue and red wands or light-sabres, depending on your pop culture franchise of choice — at the NCBI in 2012 as both struggled to launch.

You see, the scandal that marked the launch of eLife briefly entangled PeerJ, as well.

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