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Opportunities and Risks of Publishers’ Adoption of Open Peer Review

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Peer Review opening illo for UA/AU, www.universityaffairs.ca, Canada, March 26, 2012 | © Courtesy of albyantoniazzi.

An increasing number of traditional and open access journal publishers are adding open peer review options, despite debates on their viability.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


In 2006, Nature, an international weekly journal of science, has piloted open peer review, while admitting that open reviews can expose external reviewers to retaliation in the form of future unfavorable manuscript or grant assessments, if peer reviews are perceived as negative. As a counter argument, it was suggested that, in small academic sub-fields, reviewer anonymity does not necessarily protect the identity of the reviewing scholar, even though false review attributions are also possible. By contrast, putting reviewers’ names into the open in relation to reviewed manuscripts can reduce the instances in which reviewers act negligently, while allowing low-quality research for publication. In this respect, mixed open peer review models, such as when review identity is only revealed after a manuscript is accepted for publication or when an editor is granted authority to make a final decision on whether to publish a paper, may have more viability than strictly enforcing review process openness.

In recent years, a wide variety of open peer review models has proliferated that range from open participation and identities to open reports. The main arguments proffered in favor of open peer review refer to increased efficiency of open review procedures, as opposed to double-blind review. Furthermore, the impetus behind the spread of open peer review appears to stem from the inconsistency and unreliability of the traditional peer review the objectivity and reliability of which can be put into question. Traditional peer review can also significantly delay the publication of manuscripts, while adding to publication costs. No less important, the traditional peer review process is usually unpaid and does not acknowledge the role of reviewers in the publication process, which contributes to the length of review process and the amount of editorial input that collecting anonymous reviews requires. For this reason, Open Access journals increasingly experiment with open peer review by allowing for selective opt-in that authors and reviewers can exercise as for the extent to which their identity is disclosed in the process of manuscript review.

Likewise, major journal publishers, such as Elsevier, have been testing the waters of open peer review to find that its receives generally positive feedback, increases the quality of papers published, encourages more in-depth comments from reviewers and provide reviewers with incentives in the form of formal acknowledgement, academic recognition and separate citation identification, e.g., DOI. Furthermore, adding transparency to the peer review process puts the pressure on publishers to prevent conflict of interest situations that can occur when closed peer review is applied.

For these reasons, a growing number of traditional and Open Access journal publishers are adding open peer review options to their manuscript review setups, even though mixed models of open peer review can lead to confusion among both authors and reviewers, due to their complexity.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Peer Review opening illo for UA/AU, www.universityaffairs.ca, Canada, March 26, 2012 | © Courtesy of albyantoniazzi.

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