Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More on OA and peer review

I've often argued that reforming peer review and achieving open access are independent projects.  But that doesn't mean that OA can't help solve certain problems with conventional review.  I like the way Matt Hodgkinson argues that some of the objections to conventional peer review can be answered by OA journals and OA repositories.  (Note that a couple of the objections Matt answers here are about problems at conventional journals unrelated to peer review.)  Excerpt:

Kevin Dewalt's blog on the 19th January includes 10 criticisms of peer review. I've posted a comment on his blog with my response to each of the points, but I'll copy them here as well....

2. Peer-review process advances slower than scientific progress.

Yes, but peer review doesn't stop someone first posting their article on their own web-site, discussing their work at conferences, or posting their work on a pre-print server like ArXiv....

3. The current process does not provide authors and reviewers with basic collaborative web tools.

That's nothing to do with peer review, just the delays in the Web 2.0 revolution getting to publishers. PLoS ONE (published by Public Library of Science, another OA publisher) does now offer reviewers and authors interactive tools to annotate articles. Many journals, like mine [BioMed Central] and the BMJ, allow any reader to comment on a published article.

4. Authors lose copyright privileges when publishing yet are often forced to publish to continue career advancement.

Traditional journals insist on copyright transfer. Many open access journals, including those published by BioMed Central and PLoS, allow the authors to retain copyright. The article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution License....

7. There is no medium for wider, instant dissemination. Doctors or researchers who prepare a presentation or speech cannot “publish it” to a wider audience.

Yes, they can. ArXiv and other pre-print servers allow the publication of non-reviewed work (see e.g. [this]). Theses and dissertations can be published electronically (e.g. [NDLTD], MIT on DSpace). This Portuguese university repository, for example, allows the publication of reports, presentation etc. If a university doesn't have a repository for this kind of material, then it should do! ...

10. Journals can be prohibitively expensive for some in the developing world.

Yes - this is one of the reasons why open access is a good idea! The research is free to read for anyone with Internet access. Traditional pay-to-view journals are also members of a scheme called HINARI, a WHO project that allows some people in developing countries to read the research for free (but it does have limitations, as they need to be connected to an institution).