Open peer review
- Open identities: Authors and reviewers are aware of each other's identity.
- Open reports: Review reports are published alongside the relevant article (rather than being kept confidential).
- Open participation: The wider community (and not just invited reviewers) are able to contribute to the review process.
These modifications are supposed to address various perceived shortcomings of the traditional scholarly peer review process, in particular its lack of transparency, lack of incentives, and wastefulness.
Open peer review may be defined as "any scholarly review mechanism providing disclosure of author and referee identities to one another at any point during the peer review or publication process". Then reviewer's identities may or may not be disclosed to the public. This is in contrast to the traditional peer review process where reviewers remain anonymous to anyone but the journal's editors, while authors' names are disclosed from the beginning.
Open peer review may be defined as making the reviewers' reports public, instead of disclosing them to the article's authors only. This may include publishing the rest of the peer review history, i.e. the authors' replies and editors' recommendations. Most often, this concerns only articles that are accepted for publication, and not those that are rejected.
Open peer review may be defined as allowing self-selected reviewers to comment on an article, rather than (or in addition to) having reviewers who are selected by the editors. This assumes that the text of the article is openly accessible. The self-selected reviewers may or may not be screened for their basic credentials, and they may contribute either short comments or full reviews.
Adoption by publishers
These publishers operate various flavours of open peer review:
- BMJ Group
- BioMed Central
- European Geosciences Union
- European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
Peer review at BMJ, BioMed Central, EMBO, eLife, and PLOS involves posting the entire pre-publication history of the article online, including not only signed reviews of the article, but also its previous versions and author responses to the reviewers. The European Geosciences Union operates public discussions where open peer review is conducted before suitable articles are accepted for publication in the actual journal.
Open peer review of preprints
Some platforms, including some preprint servers, facilitate open peer review of preprints.
- In 2019, the preprint server BioRxiv started allowing posting reviews alongside preprints, in addition to allowing comments on preprints. The reviews can come from journals or from platforms such as Review Commons.
- In 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform Outbreak Science Rapid PREreview was launched in order to perform rapid open peer review of preprints related to emerging outbreaks. The platform initially worked with preprints from medRxiv, bioRxiv and arXiv.
Advantages and disadvantages
Open identities have been argued to incite reviewers to be "more tactful and constructive" than they would be if they could remain anonymous, while however allowing authors to accumulate enemies who try to keep their papers from being published or their grant applications from being successful.
Open peer review in all its forms has been argued to favour more honest reviewing, and to prevent reviewers from following their individual agendas.
Some studies have found that open identities lead to an increase in the quality of reviews, while other studies find no significant effect.
Open peer review at BMJ journals has lent itself to randomized trials that compared open peer review (with open identities and open reports) with non-open peer review. These studies did not find that open peer review significantly affected the quality of review or the rate of acceptance of articles for publication, and there was only one reported instance of a conflict between authors and reviewers ("adverse event"). The only significant negative effect of open peer review was "increasing the likelihood of reviewers declining to review".
In some cases, open identities have helped detect reviewers' conflicts of interests.
According to a 2020 Nature editorial, experience from Nature Communications negates the concerns that open reports would be less critical, or would require an excessive amount of work from reviewers.
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