Understanding Open peer review

Peer review is a critical part of any publication in a respectable journal. However, the entire process of traditional peer review has always been criticized by the academic circle for various reasons. Some of the most common criticisms are:

  • Peer review is a subjective matter that can be both unreliable and inconsistent varying from reviewer to reviewer.
  • There are considerable delays and expenses involved in the entire process, which affect both journals and prospects of the authors.
  • There is a lack of accountability or transparency in the mechanism, leading to challenges of unscrupulous practices by a reviewer, who may choose to subvert publications that might challenge their professional interests.

In contrast to the traditional system of peer review, an alternative structure of open peer review has evolved that has been adopted by many journals today. There does not exist any definite structure to open peer review and there exist various models of open peer review. Some of the most popular forms of open peer review are:

Open Identity Peer review: Under open identity peer review the authors and reviewers are aware of each other’s identities. This is in sharp contrast to the conventional peer review system where either the author does not get to know the reviewer or both author and reviewer do not get to know each other’s identity. Open identity peer review supposedly (a) enhance accountability, further enable credit for peer reviewers, and simply make the system fairer (b) increase review quality, as a reviewer puts more effort into their reviews when their names are attached to them.

Open Reports: Under Open reports peer review, the review reports are published alongside the relevant article. This adds another layer of quality assurance, as the reviews are open to the scrutiny of the wider scientific community. Published reviews are recognition for the reviewer as well and can count in their academic records as well.

Open Participation: Open participation peer review, is a “crowdsourced peer review” that allows the wider community to contribute to the review process. Open participation is often used as a complement to a parallel process of solicited peer review and allows for wider access to reviewers who voluntarily contribute as part of enriching the academic discourse.

Open Interaction: Open interaction takes things a step further and is more like a blog format where the author, reviewer, and others can participate in an open conversation on the publication. Allowing interaction amongst authors and multiple reviewers enables a collaborative process to improve their publication.  This may be done in stages, like opening for comment before final publication.

Open peer review is still an evolving process with newer ideas being experimented. However, open peer review is not aimed to completely replace conventional peer review. This is just another form of reviewing for publication that is gaining favor amongst the academic community.