Aug 29, 2015

Review: PeerJ Computer Science


Given the general appreciation forx my small series of author-based reviews of academic journals, I will now report my experience with PeerJ Computer Science.

PeerJ Computer Science is the second journal launched by the academic publisher of the PeerJ journal, which is called PeerJ, Inc. It was launched recently. The first articles appeared on the 26th of June. PeerJ Computer Science shares everything with PeerJ, including an idiot-proof quick submission system, optional public open review, quick editorial times, DOIs everywhere, and a ridiculously convenient publication fee. For more information, read my review of PeerJ.

PeerJ Computer science is PeerJ, for computer science. As for differences, the PeerJ Computer Science editorial board features more than 300 world-famous computer scientists, it is not indexed in the same abstracting and indexing systems of PeerJ (currently Google Scholar and the DBLP, more on that later on), and it has got a different Twitter handle, @peerjcompsci. This means that every of my positive comments about PeerJ hold for PeerJ Computer Science, too.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited when PeerJ announced its journal for computer science, which is my discipline. I was excited especially because I have begged the PeerJ founders (Jason Hoyt and Peter Binfield) for a software engineering venue for a long time.

Meanwhile, I was preparing an article regarding the last empirical study I conducted for my PhD. The study was strongly constructivist (it was an interpretive phenomenological study to be precise), its output is a theory, and it lacked what researchers in software engineers often expect: numbers and hypotheses testing. And of course, it was about affect (emotions and moods). The best study ever to test the new journal.

It did not take me much time to convince my co-authors (and PhD supervisors) Xiaofeng Wang and Pekka Abrahamsson to submit to PeerJ Computer Science. After all, they shared my same positive experience with our now notorious article Happy software developers solve problems better: psychological measurements in empirical software engineering.

We submitted the article on 10/06. It was accepted with minor revisions, which I have been told happens rarely, and it was my second time in two years. Here is the full citation.

Graziotin D, Wang X, Abrahamsson P. (2015) How do you feel, developer? An explanatory theory of the impact of affects on programming performance. PeerJ Computer Science 1:e18 https://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj-cs.18

I have recorded all the steps of the editorial process. Here they are.

10/06–manuscript submitted
10/06–PeerJ staff checks on the manuscript done
15/06–academic editor assigned
08/07–first editorial decision, minor revision
23/07–revision submitted
24/07–academic editor re-assigned
27/07–second editorial decision, accepted
12/08–article proof received, marked, and submitted

Impressive, isn’t it? It was so easy to track the process, because PeerJ sends an e-mail at every editorial step. As for numbers, we have 28 days from the manuscript submission to a first editorial submission, and we have 23 days from editorial acceptance to a published article. I have never experienced such a rapid editorial process. Assuming that the editor found the reviewers on the same day when he was assigned to the manuscript (which is unrealistic), the peer review process was done in 23 days. This sums up to a total of 70 days of editorial process, from submission to publication.

One might argue that the review comments were along the side of “nice work, accept it”. They were not. Both reviewers (I assume I got only 2 because both suggested minor revisions) wrote very extensive reports. The reports were constructive and the tone was friendly in a professional way. Do you want to see a proof? Please see our peer review history, where all the intermediate process, documents, and comments can be seen and downloaded. We were immensely satisfied with the peer review process, and kudos to the academic editor Philipp Leitner.

Given the nature of the article (theory building), its dissemination among practitioners was not as lucky as the Happy software developers paper. I can live with that. Yet, it gained 405 views and 14 downloads in 10 days. For a comparison, our article in IEEE Software (preprint here), which is considered one of the most prestigious journals in our field, has currently a count of 358 “usage” since June 2014. This is the power of open access.

Furthermore, what I love about PeerJ and PeerJ Computer Science is that each staff member is quick to reply and react to inquiries. I have an exemplar case to cite. In March, the indexing and abstracting section of the journal contained the not-so-encouraging statement:

PeerJ Computer Science is a new journal that opened for peer-reviewed manuscript submissions on February 12, 2015. Publications will start appearing soon and will be indexed in the relevant computer science databases as well as Google Scholar.

We computer scientists are well aware about how a proper indexing is important for articles dissemination. Given my involvement with academic journals (e.g., the Journal of Open Research Software and the Winnower), I am aware that several indexing services will evaluate a new entry only after several published articles. However, researchers are also known to be not much informed about many elements of the publishing process.  So, I wrote an email to Peter Binfield expressing my concerns about a lack of promises about indexing services. He replied that they “should be calling out our expectation of indexing locations better in the FAQ”. It took a couple of days for a revised text, which is now featured in the indexing and impact factor page.

PeerJ Computer Science is a new journal that started publishing in May 2015. Publications will be indexed in relevant databases such as the dblp, Google Scholar, CiteSeerX, Scopus, ACM Digital Library, Microsoft Academic Search, etc.

I have no doubts that we will see PeerJ Computer Science indexed in Scopus within a year or so, and other academic search engines will follow shortly. The thing it, PeerJ staff members are the most talented people when dealing with their customers. My only advice to the PeerJ staff is to never let PeerJ Computer Science become the minor brother of PeerJ given the smaller audience, and to keep up the good work and pushing hard for both journals.

Once again, PeerJ and its people made me happy to submit there. I will likely submit one of my next articles to PeerJ Computer Science, and I wholeheartedly recommend to my peers to submit there.

TL;DR had a great experience. Submit your next computer science study to PeerJ Computer Science.

Featured image credits: PeerJ Computer ScienceCC-BY 4.0 license.

written by dgraziotin

Dr. Daniel Graziotin received his PhD in computer science, software engineering at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy. His research interests include human aspects in empirical software engineering with psychological measurements, Web engineering, and open science. He researches, publishes, and reviews for venues in software engineering, human-computer interaction, and psychology. Daniel is the founder of the psychoempirical software engineering discipline and guidelines. He is associate editor at the Journal of Open Research Software, academic editor at the Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) journal, and academic editor at the Open Communications in Computer Science journal. He is the local coordinator of the Italian Open science local group for the Open Knowledge Foundation. He is a member of ACM, SIGSOFT, and IEEE.

Leave a comment