Frontiers was co-founded in 2007 by its current chief executive Kamila Markram, who is a neuroscientist studying autism at the Swiss Federal Institute of Lausanne. (The company itself, a private firm, is headquartered at a technology park in Lausanne. For more on the firm, see Nature‘s 2010 article ‘Publisher seeks patent’.)
Last year, Frontiers published 5,000 articles in 14 journals, to become the world’s fifth-largest open-access publisher. (NPG itself published just more than 2,000 open-access articles in 2012.) But Frontiers’ unique selling point is its concept as a community-driven networking platform, says Markram.
Academic editors can commission special topics around particular subjects; apart from regular CC-BY open-access articles at fees of between €770 (US$1,006) and €1,600 ($2,090), authors contribute (at no publishing charge) news about seminars, conferences and other events, as well as blogs and other content.
Because every one of the 80,000 or so scientists on the platform registers their details, authors can see not just how many people cite and download their articles, but also age groups and other demographic splits of readers. “It is highly addictive,” says Markram.
The peer-review process is also cooperative: after initial review, authors and reviewers discuss the paper together in an online forum, and reviewers’ names appear publicly on the final paper. The journal ends up rejecting only about 5–10% of its submissions, partly because of this review process, which aims at improving the final article, Markram says.
“We started off as a foundation, but realized that there are a lot of costs to produce high-quality open-access articles,” Markram adds. The company turned cash-positive in 2011.
On NPG’s side, the company said it was taking a majority investment but wouldn’t say how much that cost. The two said that Frontiers would expand in 2013–14 and would work with NPG on innovations in open-science tools, networking and publication processes.
Correction 28 February: This article originally stated there were around 30,000 scientists on Frontiers’ platform. There are 80,000 scientists registered; the article has been updated.