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The impact of Open Access on the Peer Review process – what have we learnt so far?

Publons' Global State of Peer Review 2018 is here! Far-reaching and pulling no punches, this largescale report assesses the lay of the research landscape to improve the future of peer review.

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Open Access has been one of the biggest game changers in scholarly publishing. In the sixth of our Publisher insight articles read on to discover the perspectives of Wiley, SAGE, The British Institute of Radiology, and the Association of University Presses on the impact of OA on the peer review process and the opportunities it has unleashed.

Tami Potten, Editorial Development Manager, The British Institute of Radiology:

The trend towards OA mega journals has shifted the focus from publishing only highly novel science to publishing sound science, by lifting the pressures of page restrictions and the need to generate revenue via subscription sales. They are no doubt contributing to the increase in the volume of papers requiring peer review and subsequently to the increased time pressures on reviewers. However, if manuscripts are reaching OA mega journals via a transfer route from flagship journals, the burden on reviewers may be reduced and there are many good arguments for publishing sound science, as well as highly novel science.

Kristen Marchetti, Associate Director of Peer Review, SAGE:

The rise of OA, and in particular the OA mega journal, has brought an interesting tide of change and innovation to the peer review process. Because the workload of the mega journal is not typically one which the traditional external academic model can usually sustain we are seeing an increase in the number of mega journals which are primarily run by an in-house team.

We are now seeing a model where Article Editors are assigned on individual papers and reviewers are asked to judge on methodological soundness rather than on potential impact or novelty.

This refocus of reviewer comments arguably leads to more objectivity in the peer review process since reviewers are not concentrating on potential impact. Additionally, the emphasis by OA journals on quick turn-around time puts pressure on other journals to keep up, while still upholding the quality of their peer review process.

Peter Berkery, Executive Director, Association of University Presses:

I think it’s important first to understand that Open Access largely remains an unproven model in monograph publishing. While there are a number of OA monograph experiments in flight – including several that AUPresses is helping to incubate – I don’t think it’s realistic to expect OA monograph publishing to achieve scale in the near-term. But the intersection of OA and peer review for monographs is nevertheless important in at least two ways.

First, there’s the “bleed-over” issue I’ve referred to earlier: many humanists fear that the perception of deficient peer review in the context of OA STEM journals will lead to similar (mis)perceptions in the context of open HSS monographs. This leads to an understandable reluctance to relinquish a six-year, career-defining work of scholarship over to an experiment.

Next, the temptation to solve the OA monograph “sustainability” challenge by driving down publication costs to some artificial acceptable level poses a direct threat to the expensive and time-consuming peer review practices that are the hallmarks of university press monograph publishing – practices, of course, that scholars have valued for over a century.

Elizabeth Moylan, iPublisher, Research Integrity and Publishing Ethics, Wiley:

Open access mega journals have played an important role in shaping the publishing landscape with peer review focusing on 'soundness’ of the research alone, with the research community determining ‘perceived interest’ after publication. However, reviewing for soundness can create challenges in terms of motivating reviewers and maintaining consistency.

If peer review was once a way to limit what was published, and use scarce journal pages wisely to share the most interesting work, then now we are seeing a shift to enable other, equally credible, research be published.

And, as a goal, publishing all credible research is important: the “file drawer effect” is a real source of bias. So giving researchers more options to publish their credible work, regardless of its perceived interest, is positive.

Publons Global State of Peer Review Report

What does the peer review landscape look like today? Is it getting better or worse? And who's actually doing all the peer review, anyway? We made it part of our Peer Review Week mission to find out.

  • Publons' Global State of peer review report combines:
  • Rich and extensive data from Clarivate Analytic's ScholarOne Manuscripts and Web of Science
  • Data-driven analysis from Publons' exclusive cross-publisher peer review platform
  • Survey responses from ~12,000 researchers around the globe
  • Statistics and insight to reveal the peer uncover the future direction of peer review.

Download the gspr now

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