This is a 2019 update of a post originally published in 2005 on The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics; the original is republished here. This version reflects experience with open peer review (mine and that of others), further reflection, and research conducted since 2005.
These are some ideas for open peer review that can be used today in experiments that may be helpful to shape future systemic approaches. The overall goal is to facilitate open research by opening up preprints, increase transparency in the peer review process, and to allow peer reviewers to take credit for their work. Interested authors and/or reviewers can experiment with this approach today. For example, an author can post a preprint in a repository, seek volunteer reviewers through a listserv or other social media service for a relevant scholarly community and/or ask a colleague to serve as an editor to coordinate the review process and/or serve as a contact for blind reviews.
Examples and links:
Gibney (2016) wrote an article for Nature on peer review overlay journals built on arXiv that includes links to the journals.
A copy of my peer review of a recent article can be found in the University of Ottawa Institutional Repository here: https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/39053 In this way my peer review constitutes a scholarly work with a stable URL that I include in my online CV.
See the Open Access Tracking Project tag oa.open_peer_review for 32 items as of July 15, some posted in the past week.
This model would be compatible with, but does not depend on, peer review overlay journals, featuring an overlay of peer review on articles submitted to and archived in institutional and/or subject repositories, the method recommended in 2009 for the UK for transition to open access in the medium to long term by Houghton et al. (2009) as the most transformative and most cost-effective approach.
The idea of open peer review is not new. While this post will not include a full review of related literature, as one example, Stevan Harnad talks about one approach to open peer review as early as 1996, in Implementing Peer Review on the Net: Scientific Quality Control in Scholarly Electronic Journals.
The goals of this model are:
transparent peer review: unlike blind peer review, readers can see the peer review process in action. Rather than accepting an assessment of certification based on a closed system, readers can judge the peer review process per se, for themselves. This model could accomodate a combination of open and blind peer review – that is, a peer reviewer could publish a signed peer review, or provide comments confidentially, depending on the preferences of authors or the discretion of editors. As an example of the latter, when reviewing opinion pieces in an emotionally heated area, some blind review might be seen as preferable to open peer review.
increased scholarly literacy: it is assumed that a transparent peer review process will facilitate science literacy teaching, as more people will be able to see the peer review process in action
better peer review: exposing the peer review process per se will allow for thoughtful reflection on peer review per se, and facilitate research. This will allow for the development of better and more efficient peer review.
peer-reviewer credit: peer review is an important task, which a great many academics undertake on a voluntary basis. A portfolio of signed peer reviews can be added to the author’s c.v. The best peer-reviewers, those who are thorough, considerate, and respond quickly, can be recognised for their work.
facilitate and recognise author controlled peer review: There are advantages and disadvantages to author-controlled peer review, where the author takes responsibility to seek out peer reviewers. While this is not presently recognised as peer review, it is widely practiced. In the author’s view, an article which has been peer reviewed and edited accordingly prior to submission for publication, is likely to be a better article. Authors who seek out comments from colleagues, and peer reviewers who are sought out by authors, are both demonstrating an openness to collaboration and willingness to listen to critique – both important elements in conducting scholarly research. Author controlled peer review could be used to supplement editor-coordinated peer review (a pre-peer-reviewed article might need only one outside peer reviewer, for example, while an unreviewed work might need two or three).
In some cases, author controlled peer review could be an alternative to editor-coordinated peer review. It would be desirable to develop a set of criteria outlining the optimum for peer review (peer reviewer meets certain criteria, is not a former student, teacher, co-researcher or co-author, at least one peer reviewer from a different cultural background – more important in social than hard sciences – and so forth). Authors should explain whether and how they have met these criteria; this could be accomplished by an automated list, where the relevant criteria are checked off. Some of this could be be automated, as well – for example, a database of the author’s works will reveal former co-authors, and automated comparison of the c.v.’s of author and peer reviewer will reveal common affiliations.
Comments on this blogpost or via e-mail are welcome.
Last updated July 15, 2019.
Gibney, E. (2016). Open journals that piggyback on arXiv gather momentum. Nature 530: 7558. Retrieved July 15, 2019 from https://www.nature.com/news/open-journals-that-piggyback-on-arxiv-gather-momentum-1.19102
J. Houghton, B. Rasmussen, P. Sheehan, C. Oppenheim, A. Morris, C. Creaser, H. Greenwood, M. Summers, and A. Gourlay, 2009. “Economics implications of alternative scholarly publishing models: Exploring the costs and benefit” (27 January). Retrieved July 11, 2019 from:
Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) Editorial 1978 on Open Peer Commentary Thanks to Stevan Harnad.
Hi Heather. Thanks for linking to the OATP tag library for “oa.open_peer_review”. The reason it contains only 30+ items today, when the topic is old enough to have generated hundreds, is that OATP only introduced the tag in the spring of 2019. We welcome help in making the tag retroactively comprehensive, by applying the tag to past items on this topic.
Before we introduced this tag, we tagged all variations on the theme of peer review with “oa.peer_review”.
That tag library has 2,836 items today.