A “special issue” for SVPCA 2015 proceedings

September 10, 2015

Wouldn’t it be great if, after a meeting like the 2015 SVPCA, there was a published set of proceedings? A special issue of a journal, perhaps, that collected papers that emerge from the work presented there.

Of course the problem with special issues, and edited volumes in general, is that they take forever to come out. After the Dinosaurs: A Historical Perspective conference on 6 May 2008, I got my talk on the history of sauropod research written up and submitted on 7 August, just over three months later. It took another five and a half months to make it through peer-review to acceptance. And then … nothing. It sat in limbo for a year and nine months before it was finally published, because of course the book couldn’t be finalised until the slowest of the 50 or so authors, editors and reviewers had done their jobs.

Taylor (2010: fig. 4). Marsh's reconstructions of Brontosaurus. Top: first reconstruction, modified from Marsh (1883, plate I). Bottom: second reconstruction, modified from Marsh (1891, plate XVI).

Taylor (2010: fig. 4). Marsh’s reconstructions of Brontosaurus. Top: first reconstruction, modified from Marsh (1883, plate I). Bottom: second reconstruction, modified from Marsh (1891, plate XVI).

There has to be a better way, doesn’t there?

Rhetorical question, there. There is a better way, and unsurprisingly to regular readers, it’s PeerJ that has pioneered it. In PeerJ Collections, papers can be added at any time, and each one is published as it’s ready. Better still, the whole lifecycle of the paper can (if the authors wish) be visible from the collection. You can start by posting the talk abstract, then replace it with a preprint of the complete manuscript when it’s ready, and finally replace that with the published version of the paper once it’s been through peer-review.

Take a look, for example, at the collection for the 3rd International Whale Shark Conference (which by the way was held at the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, which has awesome whale sharks on view.)


As you can see from the collection (at the time of writing), only one of the constituent papers — Laser photogrammetry improves size and demographic estimates for whale sharks — has actually been published so far. But a dozen other papers exist in preprint form. That means that the people who attended the conference, saw the talks and want to refer to them in their work have something to cite.

The hot news is that Mark Young and the other SVPCA 2015 organisers have arranged for PeerJ to set up an SPPC/SVPCA 2015 Collection. I think this is just marvellous — the best possible way to make a permanent record of an important event.

The collection is very new: at the time of writing, it hosts only five abstracts (one of them ours). We’re looking forward to seeing others added. Some of the abstracts (including ours) have the slides of the talk attached as supplementary information.


Although I’m lead author on the talk (because I prepared the slides and delivered the presentation), this project is really Matt’s baby. There is a Wedel et al. manuscript in prep already, so we hope that within a month or two we’ll be able to replace the abstract with a complete manuscript. Then of course we’ll put it through peer-review.

I hope plenty of other SVPCA 2015 speakers will do the same. Even those who, for whatever reason, don’t want to publish their work in PeerJ, can use the collection as a home for their abstracts and preprints, then go off and submit the final manuscript elsewhere.

6 Responses to “A “special issue” for SVPCA 2015 proceedings”

  1. Jérémy Anquetin Says:

    Hi Mike,

    We did the same for the 5th Turtle Evolution Symposium that was held in Rio last July (https://peerj.com/collections/14-5thturtle2015/). All abstracts were posted in the Collection before the meeting. As an editor, I am now looking forward to see the manuscripts rolling in. Lots of fossil turtles ahead, open for all to read!

    I hope the SVPCA 2015 PeerJ Collection becomes a success.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Excellent — best wishes with the turtle collection!

    On reflection, when I skimmed your collection’s page, I found myself wishing I could see which of the preprints are abstracts and which are full manuscripts. I think PeerJ Preprints should expand its functionality so that authors can specify when a submission is only an abstract (perhaps with an associated slide-deck). I’ll bring this to their attention.

  3. Not sure how ‘pioneering’ PeerJ is in this particular instance: I published a paper with Frontiers (in Microbiology) earlier this year, as part of a special collection — the deadline for submission hasn’t passed yet, but my paper has been on their servers for half a year by now. Maybe these are different types of collections? Regardless, having contributed to a collection myself, and seen it published once accepted with no further ado, I agree it’s a great way to collect topical papers in the same place!

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    JosephineJosephine, great to hear that this approach to symposium volumes has been around for longer than I realised. Let’s hope it takes of and starts to become the standard way of doing things!

  5. […] We’ve noted that the Taylor et al. SVPCA abstract and talk slides are up now up as part of the SVPCA 2015 PeerJ Collection, so anyone who’s interested has probably taken a look already to see what it was about. (As an aside, I am delighted to see that two more abstracts have been added to the collection since I wrote about it.) […]

  6. […] is why it’s important to present early-stage work at conferences (and as preprints). Otherwise, you may never hear about important alternative hypotheses like this until after the […]

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