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Diverse Approaches to Peer Review

Portrait of Albert Einstein in a museum. Source: pixabay.com

Peer Review Week, Sep 10-15, 2018

Peer Review Week is a global event celebrating the role of peer review in maintaining scientific quality. This year marks the event’s fourth anniversary of bringing together researchers, institutions, and organizations committed to the message that good peer review is crucial to scholarly communications. This year Peer Review Week on the topic of diversity aims:

  • To emphasize the central role peer review plays in scholarly communication
  • To showcase the work of editors and reviewers
  • To share research and advance best practices
  • To highlight the latest innovation and applications.
    (Source: https://peerreviewweek.wordpress.com/)

Although peer review itself is not as young as the week-long event organized in its celebration, it is still a relatively new invention. Albert Einstein published his original papers in non-peer-reviewed German journals through 1933, most famously in the Annalen der Physik. Max Planck, one of the journal’s editors of the time, described his editorial philosophy as:

To shun much more the reproach of having suppressed strange opinions than that of having been too gentle in evaluating them.

After moving to the US, Einstein was so shocked that his paper submitted to the Physical Review in 1936 was met with negative criticism that he decided not to publish with them at all. Ironically, the paper in question hypothesized that gravitational waves do not exist. In retrospect, peer review saved Einstein the controversy and the embarrassment that would have ensued if he had published his original article.

Einstein’s anecdotal experience with non-/peer review journals both points to the necessity of peer review in quality scholarly publishing and to the danger of excluding scientific arguments from the academic narrative. ScienceOpen bridges the gap between these two opposite approaches by making both preprints and peer-reviewed scholarly articles accessible through its discovery environment with a unified review framework for researchers to evaluate results.

The “preprint” enables researchers to openly share their results with peers at an early stage and still publish the peer-reviewed final version of their findings in a journal of their choice. To help the researcher find preprints or concentrate only on peer-reviewed literature, searches on ScienceOpen can be filtered to view only preprints or may exclude preprints. We are currently tracking preprints from arXiv, bioRxiv, PeerJ, Preprints.org, ChemRxiv, and the Open Science Framework repositories.

Once a preprint has been published, ScienceOpen offers a full set of tools to peer-review and curate the content. Users can organize and manage the review entirely on their own. Found an interesting preprint, but want an expert opinion before using it in your research? Invite a reviewer! Researchers can either review an article themselves or invite an expert colleague to do so with one click of a button on every article page. Reviewers currently need a minimum of 5 records attached to their ORCID. ScienceOpen encourages everyone to openly participate in this process, thereby contributing to the diversification of expert opinions on a specific topic.

The fact that a paper has been published, and therefore peer-reviewed, does not mean that the research should stop. ScienceOpen enables post-publication peer review across 45 million article records, in the form of final-version comments. Article reviews, modeled after book reviews, are published with the author’s name and should provide orientation and an evaluation of the research for readers. Peer review as an open dialogue between experts actively contextualizes the research into ongoing scientific debates and helps researchers gain a deeper insight into a specific topic.

In order to fully recognize the contribution of reviewers and ensure maximal discoverability for authors, ScienceOpen integrates seamlessly with Crossref and ORCID. ScienceOpen has linked users with ORCID from the beginning. Recently, ScienceOpen has been actively participating in Crossref’s development of peer review content registration. In their recent press release, ‘Crossref facilitates the use of essential peer review information for scholarly communications‘, Crossref emphasized the importance of persistent records for peer review and commended ScienceOpen on successfully implementing metadata that enriches “scholarly discussion, reviewer accountability, transparency, and peer review analysis”. Stephanie Dawson, CEO of ScienceOpen, added that rich metadata is key to discoverability – for research articles, preprints, books, conference proceedings, and now for peer review reports. Crossref is making these reviews easier to identify and find, which translates into “more impact for researchers and publishers”. Anyone can retrieve the data necessary for their integration and analysis. As the Crossref press release concludes, rich metadata helps institutions and researchers build a better picture around the role of peer review in scholarly communications as a whole, not only in terms of identifying and assessing their own contributions.

Peer review is necessary to ensure quality scientific publishing, but it still needs to be honed to the greater benefit of the researcher, the scientific community, and ultimately the whole society. ScienceOpen contributes to this goal by integrating rich metadata, featuring preprints, and enabling post publication peer review. We look forward to hearing additional potential solutions to the diversification of the peer review process for a greater impact during #PeerReviewWeek18!