What to Consider When Submitting Your Paper to an Open Peer-Review Journal
Open peer-review, and open science in general, is a topic of increasing interest among scientists. Open peer-review journals provide online referee reports to readers alongside a published paper, working towards the goal of increasing transparency in academia and scholarly communications. Some open peer-review models also require referee identities to be revealed to authors or the public, which is usually done once a paper’s peer-review process has been completed.
Here are some important points to consider in deciding whether or not to submit your work to an open peer-review journal:
Peers and Competition
Peers naturally compete for impact and recognition. Under the traditional (anonymous) peer-review model, this can give rise to referees intentionally holding back or dismissing papers that report significant new findings, only to have the chance to publish similar results first. The traditional model lacks a mechanism, other than the editor’s insistence, to pressure referees to be impartial and not to intentionally delay the publication of valid papers.
Open peer-review can be seen as an extrinsic motivator for referees to do the right thing. In case a paper is finally published, the referees’ comments will also be published alongside the paper for everyone to see. However, there are some caveats: if the journal does not publish the names of referees alongside the paper, open peer-review loses its role of being an extrinsic motivator. Also, referees may still delay the publication of papers somewhat by processing the peer-review request slowly.
A new type of open peer-review journal are those operating under the post-publication peer-review (PPPR) model. PPPR is also a form of open peer-review, where the referee reports and usually also the names of referees are openly published. PPPR has the advantage that a submitted paper is immediately published online as a kind of preprint before the peer-review process starts. PPPR journals will then invite selected scholars as well as interested readers to publicly peer-review the paper. Authors will be given a chance to revise their paper and upload updated versions to the journal’s platform until the referees are satisfied. PPPR combines the advantages of preprints (immediate publication) and open peer-review (transparency). Currently, there are only a handful of journals offering PPPR, such as F1000 Research or ScienceOpen Research.
Unless names of referees are openly acknowledged or papers immediately published, like in the case of preprints, for some authors, it might still be preferable to choose a journal that operates under a double blind peer-review model. Under the double-blind model, the authors’ identities are masked so that referees can only guess who the authors could be. This is especially helpful for authors that might be at risk of being discriminated by gender, race, religion, lack of status, sexual orientation, or any other characteristics of the authors. Instead, double blind peer-review encourages a focus on content. Double blind peer-review is therefore an appealing model for younger researchers or members of minority groups. Unfortunately, in practice, it is often difficult to fully mask the identities of authors, and referees can often guess who the authors are.