The comment by Peter Suber at the previous post “Journal of very short papers” made me realize that peer-reviewing free open access papers might have market value. Provided that it is turned on its head.
Peter Suber points to the BMJ pico publication model, which apparently is working for the medical community. The idea is amazing, even more amazing is that it works.
BMJ publishes open access papers and sells one page abridged versions of the papers. Quote:
The full text of all accepted BMJ research articles is published online in full, with open access and no word limit, on bmj.com as soon as it is ready. In the print and iPad BMJ each research article is abridged, with the aim of making research more inviting and useful to readers.
More about the BMJ pico story here: Abridgment as added value, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #137 .
But what could be the use of an abridged paper for a math article? Those articles have abstracts, more abridged than this is hard to find. Yet, there is another abridged version of the mathematical article, of some sort. It is the peer-review report.
In the classical peer-review, things happen behind the scenes. When everything has the OK of the reviewers then the paper is published. The reports go to the trash bin.
Imagine now that some (benevolent hopefully) entity offers the paid service of selling (for tiny amounts of money, like songs are sold these days) the peer-reviews of articles from arxiv.
Instead of hiding the peer-review process and do it before publication, turn it on its head and sell it after the (free open access) publication. It might work, like the BMJ pico works. I think it works because it saves time for the researchers.