A workshop organised by OpenAIRE, entitled ‘Open peer review: models, benefits and limitations’ was held in Germany earlier this month. Stephanie Harriman, Medical Editor at BioMed Central and co-Editor-in-chief of Research Integrity and Peer Review took part and shared her views on open peer review in a recent BioMed Central blog.
Harriman believes that it is feasible to implement and operate open peer review models but is aware of challenges that have prevented its widespread uptake. These include a lack of acceptance in some research communities, a lack of research into its effectiveness and a lack of consensus on what is meant by the term ‘open peer review’.
Harriman suggests that these three challenges are interlinked; in order to change people’s opinions on open peer review, more research is required to establish that it works. Before such research can be carried out, a clear definition of ‘open peer review’ is needed. To some, the term refers to openly identifying the peer reviewer and publishing the reviewer’s report alongside the article. To others, it implies taking a more transparent reviewing approach, such as making an article available for comment in an open forum, post-publication. What little research has been carried out into open peer review models has shown that asking reviewers to consent to being identified does not affect the quality of the report produced but does significantly increase the likelihood of the reviewer declining to review.
Harriman believes that there are strong ethical arguments for open peer review but concludes that more research into the peer review process as a whole is needed. She surmises that this may identify distinct peer review approaches suited to different research communities.