Transparency, Openness and Peer Review

Peer review of a journal article is a critical aspect of publication. The academic circle only acknowledges peer-reviewed journal publication as quality publication, mainly because it gives an assurance of quality and pedigree of the article and thereby the author.

However, there are numerous stemming issues with the peer review mechanism, that in turn has led to various forms of peer review practices. The issues of transparency and openness in peer review procedures in the underlying factor for each of these different forms.

Single-blind Review: This is a process where the author does not get to know the identity of the reviewer, while the reviewer knows who the author is. This is often followed to prevent authors from influencing peers who are reviewing their articles.

Double-Blind Review: This is e process where neither the author nor the reviewer knows each other’s identity. This is followed to prevent any form of nexus or collusion between author and reviewer. This mechanism promises maximum quality control with minimal transparency in the process.

Open Peer Review: This is the exact opposite where both author and reviewer know each other’s identity. This model is one of the most transparent processes and it seeks to address the issue of influence or collusion via an open and transparent process.

Transparent Peer Review: This new form emerged with the emergence of open access journals. In this model, both the article and the peer reviews are posted on the site. Often, an open-access journal uploads the entire article as received from the author on the site and invites reviewers to post their reviews as comments. The entire process is often based on a subscription-based model, where both authors and reviewers have subscribed to the open-access journal, as are the readers who want to access both articles and reviews. This is one of the most innovative and transparent review mechanisms gaining popularity.

Collaborative Review: in this case, either one or more reviewers work together to share a common review, or authors work in collaboration with reviewers on the final draft. This process is also popular for the transparency and openness of publication.

Post-publication Review: This is an extension of the earlier discussed transparent peer review mechanism, where the author’s article is posted as received, and solicited and unsolicited reviews are posted along with it. This is often like a blog where everyone is free to comment on the original post. This model is often restricted to subscription-based access to prevent trolling.

Transferable peer Review: This is a new offering from several publishers in which they allow authors, whose article they may have rejected, to transfer their manuscript along with the peer reviews received to another publication. This allows greater transparency where the new journal and reviewers have an open idea about why it was rejected earlier or the developments done on the previous comments.

Different forms of peer review have differing forms of transparency and openness. There is a set formula as each has its own merits and demerits. What matters is the choice of the journal and what process the journal follows.

How Much Does It Cost To Publish in Science

Just writing a good research paper for a scientific journal is often enough to get published. Publishing one’s article often involves considerable monetary expenses as well. There are certain misconceptions about publishing that need to be clarified on the matter of author charges; (a) not all well-reputed peer-reviewed journals publish good quality articles for free and (b) any journal asking for an article processing charge is not necessarily a fraud or predatory journal.

Asking authors for certain charges for publication is a common practice that depends on the various business models followed by different journals, which in turn determines how they monetize the entire process. Depending on the business models, there are numerous forms of charges or levies that different journals impose on authors.

Well established traditional journals that have a substantive subscription base or a well-endowed trust to back their activities often do not charge fees from authors. But that too is not a set norm as many of them may charge some or nominal charges nonetheless. Some journals today do not charge money for the digital versions of the articles but request contribution to cover printing charges and distribution. Open access journals, which are often digital-only, may also charge fees to cover for peer-review and other administrative or operational expenses. There are different business models even for open access journals where some maybe subscription-based while others giving free access to anyone. Depending on the mode of access, the article processing charges may vary.

In most cases, good academic institutions are subscribers of good journals or have a membership or other such arrangements, such that any author from these institutions offering a research paper or review article for publication get institutional monetary support. This may be in the form of discount rates or even nominal expense coverage/grants for publication.

Some of the typical forms of charges associated with publishing in a scientific journal are:

Submission fee: many peer-reviewed journals levy a submission fee at the time of the review article submission. While authors may find this practice to be restrictive, some journals levy it only to keep spamming or substandard submissions at bay.

Membership fee: some journals seek to develop long-term relationships with authors and charge a membership fee. This covers charges for a specified number of articles over some specified time. Some also seek authors to do peer-review for other articles in exchange for getting their articles reviewed. The charges may depend on the type of engagement.

Publication fees: this is the most commonly understood charge, also known as author publishing charges or article processing charges (both read as APC), that covers the actual cost of publication.

A peer-reviewed article may charge all or a combination of these charges for a research paper. Thus, you may be charged a subscription fee during submission, and only have to pay a publication fee if your articles qualify for publication after peer review.

Open access journals are vanishing from the web, Internet Archive stands ready to fill in the gaps

The advent of Open access journals was expected to revolutionize the academic journal publication sector. Various factors were driving the rise of open access journals, especially in the field of scientific studies. Some of the most common factors, such as time required to get published in conventional peer-reviewed journals or the high rate of rejections, were long-standing challenges for academicians, which Open access journals promised to resolve. Harnessing the benefits of digital communication technologies for faster discovery and dissemination of one’s content was another compelling attraction that these Journals offered. It must be noted that unlike subscription-based journals, Open access journals literally provided free access to anybody, thereby making the platforms more egalitarian.

However, despite these positives, there has been a considerable reduction in open access journals that has warranted special attention from the academic circle. Some of the top findings of disappearing Open access Journals are:

One of the key factors for the longevity of any such services is the funding that goes behind it. Subscription-based journals have a revenue model for sustenance. The digital formats for such journals utilize services like JSTOR or other such aggregators for global subscription bases that help these services survive. Open access journals rely heavily on grants or other forms of external funding to survive. Those backed by well-established Trusts or funding agencies have a higher chance of surviving in the long run, while those who fail to develop a steady stream of funding eventually have to shut down.

A major shortcoming in the case of Open access journals is the lack of archiving. According to Internet Archive, a not for profit organization dedicated to providing free content to users, 18 percent of all open access articles since 1945 (that amount to over three million articles), are not independently archived by any third-party preservation organization, other than the publishers themselves. Archiving is an integral part of academic articles and is critical for its discoverability in the long run.

This problem is further accentuated by the fact that many of these platforms have stringent anti-crawling measures and many small publishers do not use simple/common mechanisms like OAI-PMH and the ‘citation_pdf_url’ HTML meta tag to identify full-text content. This makes it difficult for third part discovery platforms to integrate these contents in their archives.

Another major concern is the challenges with Gold open access journal contents, in which the authors have to bear the costs of publication. In contrast, authors often prefer Green Open access or Hybrid Open access models where the publication cost is often partially mitigated for the authors. This affects the quality of content on different Open access platforms and thereby their attractiveness and longevity.

However, this is not to say that Open access journals are altogether dying off. There are still numerous journals experimenting with newer models. Often, the advent of a new and more popular one triggers the demise of an extant platform over time loses credence.

Is Open Access Right for your Research Article?

The most crucial step in research involves the selection of an appropriate journal for an article. The research must be published in the most suitable journal for reaching the target audience with the desired impact. However, it becomes difficult for some researchers to make the right choice while selecting a journal. Open access is one of the primary reasons for confusion among researchers.

Open access is a publishing model for scholarly publication that makes research data available to readers at no cost, as opposed to the traditional subscription model in which the readers can access the research data only by paying a subscription fee.

As there are many factors associated with the selection of publication methods, open access is changing the landscape of the research industry and has focused on the principle purpose of scholarly publishing of “spreading knowledge without any barrier”.

Advantages of publishing your research in Open Access Journals

  1. Widest possible audience

Open Access generates more recognition for the researcher’s work and their university and ultimately results in more citations for their work. Open Access means improved access to research for all.

  1. Article promotion through the publisher and social media

Open Access journals promote the published articles through free email content alerts, homepage and subject page features, and other promotional activities. They are circulated through social media platforms like ResearchGate, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.

  1. More freedom

The researchers can freely share their research articles with who they choose while having control over how others reuse their work. They can themselves share the abstract and whole article PDF through the DOIs and URL of the journal webpage.

  1. Text mining

Open Access gives the readers barrier-free access to the literature they need for their research, unconstrained by the subscription charges for access. While a researcher design research requires understanding and reading relevant research articles. Hence, open access makes it possible to get access to these requirements. Therefore, open access benefits both the author and readers.

  1. Speed

Publishing in any peer-reviewed journal involves some degree of a delay from submission to acceptance and finally to publication. Generally, an Open Access journal receives a final decision within 3-4 weeks which makes it attractive for the authors. These journals also provide immediate free access and download options after acceptance by the journals.

Though Open access is more advantageous than a traditional approach, there is always a concern among the authors about the perceived quality of Open Access publications. Many argue that open access journals do not hold the same reputation as traditional journals. However, in the last decade, most of the reputed publishers have now opted for Open Access policy (fully open or hybrid) for their journals.

Hence, it is on the author’s part to decide whether to go for an Open Access option or not as both forms have different advantages loaded in their favor.

BMJ launches new open access journal

BMJ launches BMJ Surgery Interventions & Health Technologies open access journal to its expanding portfolio that houses more than 70 specialist journals. BMJ SIT is dedicated to the latest advancements in the field of surgical therapeutic devices, interventional procedures and chin liposuction.  Its aim is to encourage high quality scientific knowledge and innovations in the field. The title will offer an impactful international platform for both early and later-stage clinical studies. It will be focusing on fast submissions and review processes with continuous publication online.

Professor Art Sedrakyan, of Weill Cornell Medical College New York said “Our ambition is to publish high-quality evidence at all stages of the life cycle of innovative as well as widely adopted surgical therapeutic devices and interventional procedures. It is my hope that this innovation in healthcare interventions will improve not only patient outcomes but the overall quality of care and treatment patients receive.”

Operate = (1) direct or control something: Do you know how to operate this machinery? (2) perform surgery on (medicine): Have you heard what happened to the last patient he operated on? (3) to perform a function or work: The motor operates smoothly.The camera also operates underwater. (4) to be involved in military activities: A militant group  is operating against the government.

Operation = (1) the state of being in  effect or being operative: That law is no longer in operation. (2) a planned activity involving many people performing various actions: They planned a rescue operation. (3) a medical  procedure involving an incision with instruments: My mother is having an operation tomorrow. Mr. Barrett is going to have an operation on his back.

Reference Link: https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/bmj-launches-new-open-access-journal-on-complex-healthcare-interventions/

‘Plan S’ launch date delayed a year

Plan S- a debated initiative to make all government-funded research to open access publishing- has been delayed from January 2020, by a year. COAlition S – the group of funders behind Plan S-has released updated guidelines which state that formal starting point of it mandates will now be January 2021. The revised guidelines were termed with the aim to give publishers additional time to adjust to the required changes and shift their business models. However, some researchers still argue that the delay does not give adequate time for the scientific community to adapt to the changes the bold plan requires.

Reference Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01717-2

Elsevier Spindle to Open-Access

Elsevier has approved its first “read-and-publish” contract with a national consortium of universities and research institutions in Norway. The Norwegian consortium has employed an agreement that rolls the two costs into one, apart from paying distinctly to avail content behind paywalls and make the particular articles instantly available to the scientific community. This is a big deal because there are many librarians and speakers who trust this model will decrease subscription charges while improving open-access publications.

Reference Link: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/04/24/elsevier-agrees-first-read-and-publish-deal

Open Access Publishing hasn’t fulfilled its promises

The New England Journal of Medicine or NEJM thinks open-access is not a good idea. An editorial published by Charlotte Haug, one of the correspondents of NEJM reports that the “experiment” has failed, and free access to scientific publications hasn’t delivered on its promises. NEJM is particularly concerned about “Plan S”, a plan in Europe that suggests that all scientists whose work is funded by the community be required to publish their results in open-access venues. Plan S is due to take upshot in 2020.

Reference Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2019/04/01/nejm-says-open-access-publishing-has-failed-right/#59541d546a44

Future Science Group opens a new journal – Future Drug Discovery

Future Drug Discovery is a peer-reviewed, open access journal covering the latest breakthrough science in drug discovery, research & development. Future Drug Discovery aims to harness high failure rates, presenting new advances and discussing their applications and translation in an openly accessible format, and providing a forum for discussing the field at large. It will be a quarterly publication publishing case histories, methodologies, original research, reviews and opinion articles covering the entire drug discovery pipeline, plus topics of interest to the drug discovery community. A comprehensive list of topics can be found at the journal webpage.

Reference Link: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/fsg-fsg032619.php

Big pharma cuddles open-access publishers

According to a study, scientists from pharmaceutical trade publish a higher fraction of their papers open access than academics who aren’t in industry. The open-access papers published by 23 large drug companies, such as Pfizer and Roche has overtaken the quantity of liberally available papers published most prominently in medicine-related fields.“It seems like big pharma has a notable niche in open access,” says Kyle Siler, a social scientist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.