Publons is a website and free service for academics to track, verify and showcase their peer review and editorial contributions for academic journals. It was launched in 2012 and by 2017 more than 200,000 researchers have joined the site, adding more than one million reviews across 25,000 journals. Publons' mission is to "speed up science by harnessing the power of peer review". Publons claims that by turning peer review into a measurable research output, academics can use their review and editorial record as evidence of their standing and influence in their field. Publons says its business model is based on partnering with publishers.
Publons produces a verified record of a person's review and editorial activity for journals. This evidence is showcased on reviewers' online profiles and can be downloaded to include in CVs, funding and job applications, and promotion and performance evaluations.
Publons also provides:
- tools for publishers to find, screen, contact, and motivate peer reviewers;
- data and publications about global peer review behaviour;
- peer review training for early-career researchers; and
- features for academics to discuss and evaluate published research.
Reviewers can choose whether or not to make the content of their review open access following publication of the reviewed publication, though journals can choose to override this. Review content is shared using a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license. It has partnerships with major publishers, including Springer Nature, Taylor and Francis, Oxford University Press, BMJ, SAGE, Wiley and more, and with related services such as Altmetric and ORCID.
Publons was founded by Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston to address the static state of peer-reviewing practices in academic research publishing, in view of encouraging collaboration and speeding scientific development. The Publons name is an homage to the "publon", the "minimum unit of publishable material". The company is registered in New Zealand and has an office in London, UK.
Publons was acquired by Clarivate Analytics in 2017. Clarivate's citation network and researcher tools, including products like Web of Science, EndNote, and ScholarOne, has generated customers in more than 100 countries and 7,000 institutions. Publons — which continues to run as a stand-alone business - say the partnership will bring more transparency, recognition, and training to peer review, helping to solve some of the critical problems facing research today. This includes speeding up research by helping editors find skilled and motivated peer reviewers, and tackling issues such as peer review fraud.
The Publons Academy is Publons' peer review training course for early-career researchers. The free, online course requires students to practice writing real reviews that are assessed by a supervisor. Upon completion of the course, graduate reviewers are made discoverable to Publons partner journals on the site who can invite these reviewers to perform real pre-publication peer reviews.
Publons Peer Review Awards
Publons Peer Review Awards are recognitions for top peer reviewers and editors. Publons' Awards started in 2016. In 2017 an award program called the Sentinel Award was added, for outstanding advocacy, innovation or contribution to scholarly peer review.
TechCrunch remarked that lack of transparency leads to many problems in the publication process, and Publons purports to help with that. Research Information noted that while the site supports both pre- and post-publication review, not all reviews are published, in deference to existing publication norms. Nature noted that peer review is an important job, and reported on the reactions of two of Publons's most prolific reviewers.
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