Should Open Access Have a More Open Peer Review?: Weighing the Pros and Cons

By Marissa Massare on Apr 20, 2021

With open access publishing increasingly gaining popularity, open peer review processes have also been on the rise. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have had to creatively adapt to the ways they are collaborating on their research and sharing it with the public, especially as everyone’s work, research, and education have shifted to remote platforms.

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The open science movement has ever endeavored to increase the transparency of the creation of scientific knowledge and to make scientific knowledge more widely available – both through sharing research work openly online at a high frequency (even in its most preliminary stages), and also collaborating online with peers on a higher level.


Peer review in any form is a hallmark of scholarly publishing. Peer review ensures that work is being published with accuracy and integrity. It strives to prevent data fabrication and various ethical concerns from seeping into the research work. It also ensures that authors can utilize constructive feedback to further revise their work, improving its overall quality. Peer review takes on many forms, and there isn’t just one single type of peer review that is acceptable. So long as a peer review is being conducted and being conducted ethically, it is generally the choice of the publisher (and in some cases the researchers) what review process they choose for their publications. At present, the most known types of peer review are:

  • Double-Blind: Both the reviewer(s) and author(s) identities remain anonymous throughout the review process.
  • Single-Blind: Keeps the identity of the reviewer anonymous, but the author’s name and affiliation appear on the manuscript.
  • Open Review: The identities of the author(s) and the reviewer(s) are not concealed.
  • Collaborative: A more interactive form of review. Example: The author(s) and the reviewer(s) would come together and discuss the manuscript among themselves.
  • Post-Publication Review: The manuscript is already published online (after an editorial check) and then reviewers are invited to evaluate. Many utilize a commenting system.
  • Transferable Review: If rejected, authors can request that the manuscript, its reviews, and a standard scorecard are transferred to another journal.

Traditionally, the peer review process uses types of blinded review where either the author and/or the reviewer’s identity remains anonymous to reduce any bias in the review process. However, the movement of open science has led to a rise in transparency of scientific knowledge and therefore an open review is becoming increasingly more common. Open peer review occurs when reviews and the information surrounding the reviewers’ identity is published alongside the scholarly manuscript. The most common of these different types are “open identity”, where the names of authors and reviewers are disclosed to one another, and “open reports”, where the reviewer’s report is published along with the final authored manuscript. Open identities can of course include reviewer names, but also their affiliation/credentials, while open reports can include timestamped review histories that consist of reviewer reports and author rebuttals.


Here are the various types of open peer review:

  • Open identities
  • Open reports
  • Open participation
  • Open interaction
  • Open pre-review manuscripts
  • Open final-version commenting
  • Open platforms

With this form of peer review continuously on the rise, it’s essential that those partaking encourage mutual respect among one another and are open to criticism that comes along with transparency in identities. Many advocates for the open peer review process believe that the openness forces the referees to more carefully evaluate the scientific issues and provide more constructive and thoughtful reviews. Also, that this process may create more transparency surrounding any potential conflicts of interest and can serve as a great demonstration for newer reviewers. Those evangelizing open review and strongly opposing blinded review ultimately argue that the openness is ethical and that it is considered unfair for authors to be exposed to judgment of their work by a referee who is acting behind a screen of anonymity/a blinded process.


Journal of Organizational and End User Computing (JOEUC)
Journal of Global Information Management (JGIM)
International Journal of Translation, Interpretation, and Applied Linguistics (IJTIAL)
International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education (IJICTE)
International Journal of Healthcare Information Systems and Informatics (IJHISI)

Those who support a more blinded review process generally encourage authors to remember that the final decision on a manuscript ultimately resides with the Editor(s)-in-Chief of the publication. The Editor(s)-in-Chief take responsibility for the decision they are making on manuscripts and are held accountable for such decisions. They are also conducting an extra layer of vetting of the peer reviews prior to them being made available to the authors as a measure to prevent potential abuses of review that oftentimes can occur such as non-constructive feedback and hostile comments, unsubstantiated criticism, excessive delay of competitors’ manuscripts, among others. A high risk of a more open review is that the Editor(s)-in-Chief could be bypassed as the author(s) and reviewer(s) may have side conversations regarding the manuscript. Many argue against a more open peer review due to issues in finding quality referees as many reviewers will shy away from the review process if their identity is openly known. It also could be difficult to find individuals that hold high positions of leadership, power, and influence. Also, less-established researchers might be apprehensive to reveal their identities for fear of retaliation by their superiors or colleagues. Obviously, the risk of bias and nepotism also play a role in some of the potential drawbacks of open peer review.


An overview of the pros and cons of Open Peer Review:

Pros

Cons

Improves quality of manuscript submission

Issues of gender, geographic, and racial bias have been noted over time

Offers recognition and greater transparency

Likely to lead to bland, even timid reviews and at times review conversations may end up happening on the side, bypassing the Editor(s)-in-Chief of the journal

Serves as demonstration for newer reviewers on the best way to go about these practices

Increase in nepotism among how reviewers treat authors

A repository for open reviews adds to the body of knowledge about a certain subject or methodology

May lead to problems finding appropriate referees

Gives incentives for referees to write insightful reports

Opportunities to reciprocate favors – referees place more weight on the author’s identity


Understandably, it’s common for authors and reviewers to raise apprehension as many of them are still adapting to and entertaining this new way to go about peer reviews. So, what is the future of open peer review?


As the main goal of peer review should always be to assist the author in ensuring that their work is published with the highest level of quality and accuracy, the ultimate decision of the type of peer review a publication exercises traditionally rests with the publisher. Currently, IGI Global operates a stringent double-blind peer review of all submitted manuscripts, and is continually monitoring the trends surrounding more open forms of peer review. For more information on IGI Global’s peer review process, please visit the following page. Additionally, IGI Global is always seeking reviewers for its 170+ scholarly journals. Interested applicants can apply here.


What are your thoughts about open vs. blind peer review? Share your thoughts below!


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