Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How to take peer review out of the clutches of publishers

You may remember that some time ago I wrote about JONAS – Journals Of Nature And Science – the essence of which was to take peer review out of the clutches of publishers and make it a purely academic responsibility again, what it should be in reality anyway. The result will not only be a cheaper system (by an order of magnitude compared to the current one), but also likely a better, fairer, more expert and possibly faster one. And because publishers' main focus will necessarily be on the technical issues of producing correctly XML-coded, archivable, preservable, findable, machine-readable as well as human readable, text- and data-mineable articles in a variety of formats for different purposes (e.g. XML, HTML, PDF, ePub), the currently often sloppy production may be greatly improved (you'd be surprised at the number of errors in the material published by even the publishers priding themselves most on quality – mixing up β with ß or + with ±, for instance!).

ScienceOpen has decided to follow up on the JONAS idea and recently announced that they will give authors the option of publisher-free peer review. Needless to say that I'm very pleased with that. Several scientists have remarked that "this is an important experiment" and expressed their hope that it will take off.

ScienceOpen will probably face some substantial hurdles, as is generally the case with new ideas in the area of scholarly publishing. I'm reminded of the early days of open access, in that regard. However, tenacity and persistence will do a lot to overcome those hurdles, as does help from those in the academic community who would like to progress peer review reform and open access.

Such help doesn't have to be onerous. Simply talking to colleagues and peers about it, retweeting relevant tweets, mentioning it in blog posts, et cetera, will be of tremendous value. The fact is that ScienceOpen, as a small new outfit, doesn't have a big marketing budget, and therefore relies on word-of-mouth. Moreover, even if they had a larger budget, they would rather refrain from email spamming and the like. In my view, they should be rewarded for that attitude with whatever help those who are sympathetic to new approaches in scholarly publishing can offer.

And, of course, if you could consider trying out this approach by publishing a paper with the Peer Review by Endorsement method, that would be super.

Propagating this blog post would be highly appreciated, too, obviously. Many thanks in advance.

Jan Velterop

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