Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Making the peer review process public

I've just had a paper accepted by PeerJ (hurrah!).  I'm really happy about this as I love their ethos:

"We aim to drive the costs of publishing down, while improving the overall publishing experience, and providing authors with a publication venue suitable for the 21st Century.  Our tag line is : "Your Peers, Your Science. Academic Publishing is Evolving" and we are committed to improving the process of scholarly publishing."

Coming from a very small field which isn't often thought to be very exciting by those outside of it (transposon evolution), a publisher who doesn't care whether the research is 'exciting' or not is a great thing for us.

Another thing that I've really liked is that they encourage the reviewers to sign their reviews, although they don't have to (ours didn't by the way).  I think this is great, it makes for much more honest and positive reviews and prevents competitors putting road blocks in your way (we don't really have any competitors, but still...).  My boss however is a bit worried that if you were critical of a powerful group, it could end up costing you.

Which is why I think the next point is so important.

PeerJ are also encouraging authors to make their review process publicly available.  This would hopefully prevent any repercussion as the rest of the community would be able to vouch for whether you had been fair or not.  It would also keep us honest.  A further thing that I've enjoyed about this is that it shows that no-one is perfect.  Papers getting reviewers who just go, "yes publish it" is basically unheard of, so you can see that even scientists that you're totally in awe of have to go through the same process.  This is particularly great for Phd students and ECR researchers who can suffer from imposter syndrome due to the habit of suggesting that we were perfect the first time around that goes on in academia.

It's this habit that has left me feeling rather unstuck.  I'm sure you can tell from the gushing that I'm a big far of  transparency, I love these innovations.  However, when I got the email saying would I like to make my peer review history public, I suddenly wasn't sure.  Standing out there among the few who are doing it and saying  "I'm not perfect" is kind of scary.  My boss isn't that keen, but then having been in academia for longer, his habits are more ingrained.  I think I'm going to do it, but it does seem rather a leap into the unknown.


  1. Do it!

    For what it's worth, publishing your PeerJ review history will not put you among "the few who are doing it" -- more than half of PeerJ articles have public reviews.

  2. Actually, more like 70% of all PeerJ authors have currently chosen to publish their Peer Review history. So I vote you do it too!

  3. I'm going to, I've been convinced. It does still make you 'the few' in the wider sense though as the other journals haven't caught up yet, so the majority of publications out there don't show their history.