Open peer review – publish first, review later

c’t 10.2008:82-89 has a nice article about open peer review “Die Weisheit der Massen” summarizing the current peer review process – the top line of the cartoon below. Following submission of a paper, it is initially screened for some formal requirements before being submitted to anonymous peer review and finally being published. Anonymous peer review lasts between 2 months and 2 years (!) and is abbreviated so far only by one biomedical journal.

My favorite model comes with the bottom line, where I would leave the judgement to open (public) peer review with agents approaching my paper and buying it for their print journal.

The arguments against closed peer review are simple – with the ever increasing work load papers are never checked with the scrutiny they should; peer review has become more a play ground to kick out unwanted experiments or authors while delaying publication considerably. As a reviewer I usually do not have access to original data, I have no ways to check plagiarism and my overall judgment is more or less common (science) sense. As these are not very good prerequisites, my review cannot replace the judgment of the science community. So why not going directly to the community? Most of my colleagues will have a different opinion according to a recent congress. Nevertheless we should be aware that poor papers rejected several times, consume most of the anonymous peer review system nowadays as they are sent out again and again.

The c’t article nicely summarizes also the open peer review movement starting with the 1997 bulletin board. PLoS ONE is doing well while the Pitch died (remains at Philica from the University of Bath has been described as “Ebay for Science” and although I like this idea very much, c’t comments that it looks more like social networking study. At least an Ebay(R) for Science would put back scientific publishing into the right context as self archiving is not an option for many reasons. I visited Biomed Central last week in London for an arxiv like service in biomedicine but they seem to be somewhat hesitating of implementing such a radical change.

Open peer review may present a unique chance to overcome the impact point system as trackbacks are more transparent than citation counts and authors receiving frequently negative comments are certainly less reputable – science in real time, yea, yea.