More on Open-Source Peer Review

16 January 2009 at 9:41 am 9 comments

| Peter Klein |

untitled1I’ve thought about setting up an academic version of the Fail Blog where scholars could post copies of rejected manuscripts, nasty referee reports and editor’s letters, and — of course — favorite student papers. But some current experiments in open-source  peer review (a topic we’ve covered before) may do the trick. For example, this biology journal is making all submitted manuscripts and referee reports visible to the public:

Publication of research findings is very important to scientists. But scientists tend only to know about how things work at a scientific journal through personal experience and hearsay. By making the evaluation of manuscripts visible to everyone, The EMBO Journal aims to encourage constructive referee and author argumentation. Younger scientists will gain valuable insight into how to publish their research findings as well as how to deal with critique.

I’m not sure how anonymity will be preserved, and some potential authors and reviewers will likely shy away from participating. A very interesting experiment, to be sure. Here’s a wikipedia entry on the open-source peer-review movement more generally.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Marc Benoit  |  16 January 2009 at 11:10 am

    It is indeed an interesting subject. The question is, of course, how quality can be ensured in an open system; not that it is perfect in the ‘old’ system. The most extreme open version seems to be that everybody can publish everything and comments are collected afterwards. My spontaneous reaction would be that such as system is very likely to fail, for there are no real incentives to comment since comments may not have any consequences. More appealing seems the idea to publish rejected manuscripts. In terms of quality improvement, I think referees should still be anonymous but their comments should be publicly traceable, so one could see what comments on which papers reviewer xyz made.

  • 2. Christian Zimmermann  |  16 January 2009 at 6:51 pm

    There are already a few experiments like this in Economics, most notably the Economics E-Journal, where you can comment on submitted papers, and they may then graduate up to articles. Comments are not anonymous though. And who would want anonymous comments on the Internet anyway…

    The other experiments are blogs that discuss research. I have tried to assemble a collection of them at Econ Academics precisely with the purpose to encourage such discussion and comments, Maybe something good will emerge from it.

  • 3. Joshua Gans  |  17 January 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Are you sure about that journal link. I think you mean this:

  • 4. Core Economics » Blog Archive » Open peer review  |  17 January 2009 at 4:28 pm

    […] Peter Klein alerts us to a new type of peer review at the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal: […]

  • 5. Peter Klein  |  17 January 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Joshua, yes, thanks for the correction (now fixed).

  • 6. Marc Benoit  |  17 January 2009 at 8:17 pm

    @Chris: What do you mean by the following assertion: “And who would want anonymous comments on the Internet anyway…”

  • 7. Mario Rizzo  |  18 January 2009 at 9:16 am

    Be “happy” that you get referee reports at all. In the legal academic community, on the other hand, you just get rejections with no explanation by student law review editiors.

  • 8. Christian Zimmermann  |  19 January 2009 at 11:36 pm

    @Marc: While comments on this blog are (still) civilized, anonymous comments on internet fora get easily out of hand.

  • 9. Marc Benoit  |  20 January 2009 at 6:54 pm

    @Chris: Comments can be moderated, users can still register (eg with their university email) but comments could be anonymous (which very likely avoid vandalism), etc. The benefits of anonymity, in my opinion, clearly outweigh potential drawbacks. Status, personal animosities, etc. tend to negatively influence feedback. And substance of comments really matters more than titles and positions.

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