From an article by Richard Van Noorden in the January 17 issue of Nature weekly:
Mathematicians plan to launch a series of free open-access journals that will host their peer-reviewed articles on the preprint server arXiv. The project was publicly revealed yesterday in a blog post by Tim Gowers, a Fields Medal winner and mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK.
The initiative, called the Episciences Project, hopes to show that researchers can organize the peer review and publication of their work at minimal cost, without involving commercial publishers.
"It's a global vision of how the research community should work: we want to offer an alternative to traditional mathematics journals," says Jean-Pierre Demailly, a mathematician at the University of Grenoble, France, who is a leader in the effort. Backed by funding from the French government, the initiative may launch as early as April, he says.
For the Episciences Project, the CCSD plans to create a publishing platform that will support online peer-reviewed journals. Each journal, or 'epijournal', would have its own editor and editorial board, and authors could submit their arXiv-posted papers to their journal of choice. The journal would then organize peer review, perhaps using workflow software provided by the CCSD. Peer-reviewed papers would be posted on arXiv alongside their un-reviewed versions. A central committee (led by Demailly) would manage new journal candidates and make recommendations on paper formatting, but each journal would be free to set its own policies (including whether to charge for publication).
Demailly says that he expects to adjust the concept with feedback from the mathematics community. "If people want larger reviews linked to papers, or the possibility of online comments and blogs, we can offer this with only minor changes to the platform," he says. At the moment, the model's success or failure hinges on buy-in from mathematicians -- but the involvement of Gowers and other prominent mathematicians, such as Terence Tao of the University of California, Los Angeles, may help to build support.