The First World War and PeerJ | eReviews

The First World War: Personal Experiences and Propaganda and Recruitment Adam Matthew Digital;; to request a trial please go to:

By Cheryl LaGuardia

content The First World War Portal is comprised of two modules: “Personal Experiences” and “Propaganda and Recruitment,” which collectively cover the period from 1914 to 1919. “Personal Experiences” includes such material as audio-recorded interviews, cartoons, comics, diaries, letters, paintings, panoramic views, photographs, postcards, propaganda, recruiting posters, reminiscences, scrapbooks, sheet music, sketches, souvenirs, trench journals (from Australian, British, Canadian, French, and New Zealand troops), trench maps, war art, 360° views of personal items and objects, and ephemera. The file also presents material from the Vera Brittain Archive (the author’s wartime diaries and letters and a heavily annotated early version of her first autobiography, Testament of Youth).

The second module, “Propaganda and Recruitment,” contains aerial leaflets; Le Bonnet rouge (newspaper articles suppressed by the French government); cartoons; Daily Mirror wartime front pages; German and Russian propaganda postcards; guidelines for recruiting officers; Kitchener Papers on manpower, morale, and recruitment; minute books of recruiting committees; Mirror Group n­ewspapers’ cartoons and photographs; posters; cabaret, concert, and theater programs kept by the German Army; scrapbooks; and training manuals.

The database also contains secondary sources that provide context for the primary source material. These include case studies, chronologies, a “Glossary of the Great War,” interactive maps, scholarly essays, a slide-show gallery, teaching pages, visual galleries, and a “My Archive” feature by which users can save searches, collect a library of documents, and create personalized slide shows.

Portal material is sourced from institutions such as the Alexander Turnbull Library, the National Library of New Zealand; Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte in the Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart; British Library; Brotherton Library, University of Leeds; Cambridge University Library; Hooge Crater Museum; Hoover Institution Archives and Library; Imperial War Museum; Mills Memorial Library, ­McMaster University, Canada; Mirrorpix; the National WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, MO; Over the Top Collection; Sanctuary Wood Cemetery; and the National Archives (UK).

Usability The opening screen has a simple search box at top screen right, below which is a toolbar leading to documents, maps, other visual resources, print materials, advanced search, and popular searches. The opening screen also offers a revolving selection of full-color images from the collections and a list of quick links to: “Nature and Scope: Personal Experiences”; “Nature and Scope: Propaganda and Recruitment”; essays; interactive maps; case studies; and popular searches.

I leapt into popular searches and explored “Searches by Keyword” (in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish) by countries, places, names, battles and other events, and theaters of war. I was surprised not to find Ypres under “Y” in the alphabetical list, but that list is short enough that by looking carefully I found it listed in the F’s (First Battle of Ypres), S’s (Second Battle of Ypres), and and so on. Oddly, there was no entry for the Fourth Battle of Ypres, also known as the Lys Offensive.

Returning to the opening screen I made my way through the buttons in the toolbar. “Introduction” includes sections on nature and scope, participating libraries, editor’s choice pieces, copyright information, and a chance to take a tour. “Documents” offers 43 pages of the collections’ contents, filterable by document type, library or archive, theater of war, language, and module; it takes some time to load the full documents section, but considering the type and amount of material available it’s not unreasonable. However, even on my full-size laptop screen, I couldn’t view all the listings in the library/archive drop-down “Filter By” menu within the documents section, though that’s a minor problem considering the cornucopia that’s here.

Maps and visual resources are divided into two sections each: Interactive Maps and Map Gallery, and Visual Gallery and 360 Object Gallery, respectively. The databases’ “Further Resources” consist of essays, case studies, accounts of war experiences, a chronology, the glossary, popular searches, external links, and Archive Explorer, a function that queries other Adam Matthew resources to which your library subscribes.

Next I tried an Advanced Search for the keywords “vera brittain” and “vad,” restricting the search to primary documents (you can stipulate you want these or Secondary Resources) and got a list of 49 items, including Vera Brittain’s diary from 1917, and here’s where I located the real glory of this file. There were 29 pages compiled by Brittain chronicling her life in 1917, including newspaper clippings (many Times announcements of the deaths of loved ones), pressed flowers from places and fields significant to her (in full color and practically palpable), and later hand-written notes added from 1918.

I spent the next couple of hours trying the myriad features and searches. Maps are easy to find with advanced searches, and the resolution is amazingly clear. The items in the 360° display gallery are so realistically shown I’m sure I’m going to have trouble sleeping after viewing the nightmarish tube helmet for protection against gas attacks.

A series of searches too numerous to list revealed the wealth of highly relevant material—both primary and explicative secondary—to be found quickly and easily. For a file loaded with so many different kinds of material it is surprisingly searchable.

Pricing The one-time price for both modules in the First World War Portal ranges from $27,000 to $90,000, with a nominal annual hosting fee. Adam Matthew uses a banded pricing structure to determine discounts and payment plans for institutions of all sizes.

Verdict This content is stunning in depth, breadth, and multimedia versatility. Interactive maps and items in the 360° gallery are eye-openers, but the archival manuscripts and the extent of the overall collections are the real discoveries to be made here. The First World War Portal is a remarkable resource that will bring the Great War directly to the desktops of researchers ranging from high school students to the most advanced World War I scholar. Highly recommended for those libraries able to afford it.

Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at

PeerJ PeerJ, Inc.;

By Bonnie J.M. Swoger

Content Scholarly journal publishing is going through a period of intense transition, during which journals are leaving behind the vestiges of print publication and embracing new models enabled by online communication. One of the journals leading this transformation is PeerJ, an open access resource for biological and medical research.

PeerJ publishes research articles spanning the breadth of the biomedical field, tackling subjects that include ecology, paleontology, bioinformatics, science education, genetics, computational biology, and biochemistry. Research articles are indexed in PubMed, Scopus, Embase, and Chemical Abstracts.

As PeerJ is an open access journal, its offerings are freely available for anyone to read and come with Creative Commons ­CC-BY licenses providing permissions for reuse. But PeerJ has also taken to openness in other ways. First, it encourages authors and reviewers to make reviews (and reviewer names) public. Recent statistics published on the journal’s blog indicate that 75 percent of authors made reviewer comments readily available and that 38 percent of reviewers were willing to sign their names to their assessments. Second, PeerJ requires authors to provide access to the data, materials, and protocols used in each study, either by depositing materials in an appropriate subject repository or including them as PeerJ supplemental information. Finally, registered users can openly comment and ask questions of authors.

In addition to the peer-reviewed pieces (just over 200 since the first ones appeared in February 2013), PeerJ hosts a preprint service for articles in the same biomedical disciplines as the PeerJ journal. Authors can post items to the preprint service for free. Minimum quality checks are performed to ensure that pseudoscientific work is not included, but preprints are not peer reviewed. At the time of review, the preprint service contained 90 works.

Usability PeerJ has worked hard to break with print publishing traditions. It is one of a few online journals I have seen that show that it was born digital. The homepage feels similar to news sites such as or The Daily Beast, prominently featuring pictures, artwork, and figures from recently published items.

Users can browse the homepage, scrolling through the images, titles, and topical headings of each piece. Additional selections load once the reader reaches the bottom. It’s also possible to look through complete lists of articles or preprints and filter by publication date or subject area. The site includes a basic search with a check box permitting queries to include “fuzzy matches,” allowing for misspellings and word variations in the search and the results. An advanced search is not available, although with just over 200 articles, it isn’t currently missed.

After clicking on a title, patrons see the full text in clear, large type as an HTML webpage. An internal navigation menu on the left side of the page lets users jump to various sections (methods, discussion, conclusion, etc.). Articles can be read on-screen or downloaded as PDF or XML versions of the paper. Built-in social media tools give users the option to share selections via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and email. Since the pieces are open access, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ friends will actually be able to read the material that interests them.

Articles have other features that make them simple to use online. Figures can be downloaded independently and are given distinct DOIs so they can be found and cited later. Users can elect to “follow” an entry to stay informed about questions, answers, and comments that are added by others. One quick link often pulls up the complete review history for the paper, including initial reviews, editor’s comments, and reviewer comments after revision. This makes PeerJ an excellent tool for teaching students about the peer-review process.

Pricing As an open access publication, PeerJ articles are free for anyone to read, download, share, and reuse when proper attribution is given.

While the journal charges author fees like many other open access publications, its membership model is a groundbreaking experiment in scientific publishing. Instead of charging a flat fee per accepted article, PeerJ asks each author to pay for lifetime membership (with some exceptions, such as for undergraduate students). They can prepay the membership at the point of manuscript submission at the lowest rate of $99, although the fee won’t be refunded if the manuscript is not accepted. Authors can also choose to pay the membership once an article is accepted, in which case an additional $40 fee is charged. There are various membership levels based on how often the author plans to publish (once a year, twice a year, or unlimited times).

Membership does not guarantee publication, and manuscripts are reviewed for scientific merit. As at PLOS ONE, editors and reviewers do not attempt to judge the impact or novelty of the work. The journal does not yet have an impact factor but offers article-level metrics for each publication.

PeerJ also negotiates with libraries, organizations, and universities to provide institutional memberships. In these arrangements, researchers at these institutions can take advantage of the prepayment in order to publish with PeerJ.

On November 11, PeerJ announced that authors will now be allowed to publish an unlimited number of preprints for free, whereas before they were limited to one per year (see details at LJ INFOdocket,

Verdict PeerJ is an excellent source for the primary scientific literature for high schools and others on limited budgets and is also useful to researchers, medical professionals, and science educators. Publication in PeerJ may be helpful for biomedical researchers depending on their career goals and institutional cultures.

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, Readers can contact her at