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From libraries to open access
Until some years ago, scientific research was published exclusively in journals that had to be paid for by the libraries. Publishing was free for authors. Whether you would be able to read a paper from another group, or other people could read your paper, solely depended on whether the according libraries had ordered that journal or did at least have access to it via inter-library loan. In every research field, there were a few journals that were particularly important, and thus you had a good chance to find all important papers in your library. However, if you or someone else in the world had no access to a journal, you, he or she had either to ignore that paper or buy it from the publisher.
Some publishers might have seen a chance here, and over the years more and more and even very expensive journals have been founded. Libraries could not follow this development; they simply had not enough money to order every new journal. While the situation was developping very badly at those days, the internet has become increasingly important and the era of Open Access (OA) journals began. Papers in these journals are freely available in the internet, and the obvious costs for running the server and for organizing the journal are charged from the authors - in principle, a fair decision.
Funding has changed since then; research projects do not only receive financial support for the work but also for the publication of that research. But some publishers have seen in these OA journals just another way to earn their money and began to charge quite high publication fees from the authors. And these journals are growing like weed. Almost every day I receive a personal invitation to publish my "outstanding research" in one of these new journals - for a considerable publication fee, of course. However, if you have run a low-budget project that did not require financial support, perhaps even in your private low-budget laboratory, you may not have received funding for publications and may not want to pay this large amount of money for every paper. Look it up: Even in non-profit journals, publication fees are often much higher than the true cost for running a website and presenting your papers in a reasonable form.
Another issue is that some journals have certain restrictions, for example concerning the length of a paper. I think that is, in principle, good. But you sometimes might have run a project and studied several aspects of it, which all to present would require more space. The usual way is to split the presentation into several papers, which is often good but would be stupid if all papers address the same aspect. So I decided to take my freedom as an author to write the paper in the way and length I want; I do hope, of course, that this is nevertheless acceptable for the reader.
Last not least, lab reports are usually not peer-reviewed. That is a pity. But here is a different suggestion. Why cannot those people who are working on related projects and have something to tell, make their comments so that all other people can read them? The good thing would be that many more people can read what others may see as particularly interesting or critical, or may offer a different interepretation. Non-public peer reviews do not per se guarantee excellent and fair comments (although they often are). In my scientific life, I have received many great and helpful reviews, for which I am very grateful to the referees. But, like probably all of us, I have also received a few reviews in which the referee had obviously not spent a fair amount of time and thoughts on what was reported. And all of us have probably seen, among the many excellent papers in peer-reviewed journals, those few papers that were not yet well adjusted - but nevertheless passed the peer-reviewing process. Maybe comments from the large scientific community of interested and competent readers would be a better indicator of which papers should be taken care of, and which not. (read more in >evaluation.)
Instead of pre-reviewing I suggest a post-reviewing process, in which people can comment on the reports after publication. That is a try and will require a very sensible proceeding. No authors want to be bashed in the public, and neither do I. Therefore I introduce two requirements; comments must be fair, and signed by name (something I often missed in the usual peer-reviewing process). For practical reasons, however, I make two additional restrictions; comments must be short, much shorter than a usual review, and critics constructive and to the point. If you want to discuss at length a different theory, it might be better to write your own paper. And no bashing will be accepted, or course.
To ensure these restrictions, I ask you to send your comments to me, I will then decide whether I will publish them here (only if you agree). I have no experience yet with such a procedure, but I hope it will work. Just to make sure that comments will not be endless, arguments that have already been made several times, may not be published another time, and in case the number of comments is growing into infinity, I may stop that function.
However, comments are nice, but the reason for establishing this website was not a new reviewing procedure but mainly a cheap publication site.
I see many advantages in vpl-reports.de and hope they all will be fullfilled. There is, however, a principle disadvantage, that is the possibility that papers here may be overlooked. (I have this experience also from peer-reviewed journals but only in rare cases.) Unfortunately, vpl-reports.de papers will not be listed in scientific indexes, but I am trusting in search engines and the word of mouth. In addition, you may, please, tell your students and colleagues if you think a paper published here would be particularly interesting or important for them. As long it is for personal and non-commercial use, you are free to distribute the papers published in vpl-reports.de in printed or electronic form, provided nothing is changed and the original link to this website is given.