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What Tentative Research Results on Open Peer Review Feasibility Indicate

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Hosted by @ClintLalonde @BCCampus ed tech demo: hypothes.is with @dr_jdean, November 29, 2016 | © Courtesy of Giulia Forsythe.

A recent evaluation of open peer review (OPR) instances both suggests models for OPR realization and indicates its applicability in humanities and social sciences.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


While open peer review (OPR) has primarily developed in the domain of exact and technology-related science, such as in the form of crowdsourced reviews, pre- and post-publication evaluations, peer commentaries, synchronous reviews, endorsement-based peer reviews and editor-mediated reviews. In other words, the conventional forms of peer review that scholarly journals apply are likely to be a legacy of paper-based publication and review procedures that have been maintained after the advent of digital technologies. The innovation potential of the latter is likely to be underutilized, especially as concerns alternative forms of peer review procedures. This is especially the case for Open Access (OA) journals that represent a significant step forward with regard to the utilization of digitization possibilities for the purpose of putting alternative publication models into practice.

As a recent case study by Julien Bordier shows, the introduction of OPR procedures can increase audience interest in an online journal, such as via an open commentary or peer evaluation interface, which has been found to stimulate spontaneous exchanges with the scientific community, increase the degree to which serious responses are provided, and their acceptance by article authors. Especially online journals deploying either Gold or Green OA models, such as VertigO, can be expected to significantly increase their visibility in their respective scientific communities once they announce experimental peer review procedures. OPR formats can also allow direct communication between authors and reviewers, which is not the case when either double- or single-blind review procedures are in place. Thus, OPR can enable flexible corrections of article drafts that can be successively revised as feedback from peers arrives, while allowing a high degree of transparency concerning the justifications for these proposed and implemented changes and their precise locations in the text.

At the same time, the implementation of OPR solutions can be expected to demand a deployment of technological tools that make them possible, such as website plugins and backend commenting platforms, such as Hypothes.is. These solutions will require making modifications to journal websites, opening individual accounts at commenting platforms and developing procedures for deciding when article drafts receive sufficient comments for a decision on their publication to be made, based on specific responses and recommendations from OPR participants. Furthermore, OPR can also stimulate reviewers to provide more general and voluminous commentaries without paying as much attention to in-text corrections, as is the case with conventional review procedures. Additionally, OPR can make possible conflicts between authors and reviewers, which needs to be accounted for by editorial teams. Furthermore, even with OPR in place, OA journals may continue to struggle to recruit reviewers so that targeted review invitations are likely to be needed.

Thus, despite technical and technological complexity involved, OPR can be experimented with as part of opening public discussion over review criteria, digitization possibilities and scholarly evaluation.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Hosted by @ClintLalonde @BCCampus ed tech demo: hypothes.is with @dr_jdean, November 29, 2016  | © Courtesy of Giulia Forsythe.

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