Jun 152007

An article in the first issue of Open Medicine, a new open access journal , Peer review in open access scientific journals by Dr Falagas (via Journalogy) discussed development in peer review from an open access perspective:

Open access publications should be at the forefront in experimenting with strategies to foster what might be called an increasingly open science. As the open access movement blossoms, its supporters should continue to critically evaluate the parallel development of openness and transparency in the peer review process.

…while all manner of electronic journals are experimenting with reader input on published material, little is known about the scientific value of post-publication review in the modern era of open access publishing

Peer review is a surprisingly active area for discussion and experimentation, given that has been the standard approach to selecting material for publication in scholarly journals for about 300 years. (For instance the American Medical Association runs an four-yearly International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication.) There are two reasons for this:

  • dissatisfaction with the present system: it has been described as unreliable, unfair, unstandardised, untested, open to bias, failing to validate or authenticate, stiffling innovation, perpetuating the status quo, rewarding the prominent, expensive and slow
  • because we can: new online publishing and social networking technologies make it easier to test new ideas

Some example of new approaches to peer review:

  1. An early online experiment with open reviewing tool place at the (now defunct) journal Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence. The peer review process consisted of the following. All submitted articles within scope are immediately posted on the Web for a 90 day discussion period. At end of “review” period, authors given option to revise; revised article sent out for “pass-fail” review“. If ”pass,“ article is published.
  2. Nature’s open peer review trial: authors were invited to have their submitted manuscripts placed on an open website where anyone could review and comment on them. About 5% of authors agreed to participate, and the displayed papers got a healthy level of interest and traffic, but the trial was unsuccessful because the quantity (and quality)
  3. In PLosOne, the new OA ”journal of everything“ from PLoS, articles are assessed by a member of the editorial board for purely for technical correctness (roughly, answering the question, is this science?). Once accepted, papers are made available for community-based open peer review involving online annotation, discussion, and rating.
  4. At Biology Direct (a BioMedCentral journal), their novel system of peer review ”will include making the author responsible for obtaining reviewers’ reports, via the journal’s Editorial Board; making the peer review process open rather than anonymous; and publishing the reviewers’ reports along with the articles, thus increasing both the responsibility and the reward of the referees and eliminating sources of abuse in the refereeing process“

Some useful resources:

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