The Role Of Peer Review In Open Access Publishing
Peer Review Open Access

The Role Of Peer Review In Open Access Publishing

Arunav Moitra
Arunav Moitra

Undoubtedly, the impact of peer review to the authors and editors is crucial in academia. The peer review system exists to validate academic work and helps to enhance the quality of published work. Plagiarized and low-quality content submissions have been in place for ages. So, the peer review process or the reviewers’ suggestions helps to improve the quality of the research work and ensure the article befits the subject area of expertise. The major advantage of a peer review process is that peer-reviewed articles provide a trusted and solid knowledge base to the scientific community. Thus, the peer review system is by far the only widely accepted method for research validation despite challenges and criticisms.

The widespread implementation of open access publishing is currently revolutionizing the role of peer review. Open access and modern-age peer review have the potential to boost the timely dissemination of research findings. It can have a more immediate effect on clinical practice than traditional publishing. However, several aspects of open access publishing, like open peer review, are yet to be fully utilized by the scholarly community.

A fair and thoughtful manuscript review by domain experts provides a greater benefit to the editors and publishers. It judges the importance of the research question and the appropriateness of the methodology. Further, instructive comments by the experts assist in establishing a wider context to the conclusion and findings.

Thus, the peer review system gets acknowledgment as the pillar that upholds the credibility and integrity of the scholarly output. However, due to a lack of transparency and inconsistency in output in recent times, there have been many criticisms over its relevance. Yet, it is evident that the benefits are outweighed by the challenges or fusses around the peer-review process.

So, let us look at the importance of peer review in the publishing industry and how it is shaping up with time.

Understanding the Importance of Peer Review in Publishing

In layman’s terms, peer review is a method that aids in the quality assessment of documents or manuscripts. Reviewers with field-specific or subject-specific knowledge scrutinize the draft of scientific papers, journal articles, or other research work and provide feedback to the authors and researchers to correct their mistakes or drawbacks. The aim of researchers is not just to read but to understand the underlying tones and contexts and evaluate their soundness. They also gauge the usefulness of the research methodology and the overall implication of the outcomes. On top of that, peer review also concentrates on analyzing the practicality of the work and its alignment with the journal's core field of study.

Sadly, we are witnessing a huge explosion of journal articles and publications in the online publishing realm with little or no peer review. If there is no robust peer review system in the online publishing industry, it would derail academics. The advances in scientific and scholarly knowledge would be at high risk of losing their significance.

Now, let us go through the limitations in the peer review system.

What Are The Limitations of Peer Review

Despite its merits, peer review has some limitations that threaten to weaken the entire scholarly publishing system.

The limitations are:

  • Lack of Transparency: The backbone of the conventional single-blind or double-blind peer review is Anonymity forms. The lack of transparency makes the system vulnerable to manipulation. Fake reviews and mass rejections are great examples of this. Further, it might lead to diminishing  trust in the system.
  • Lack of Recognition: As peer review is totally voluntary, reviewers do not receive recognition or monetary benefit for their time and effort. They invest a lot of their time in evaluating the manuscripts. So, it becomes extremely tough for editors to find and designate domain experts or reviewers.
  • Lack of Standardization: The peer-review process varies from journal to journal due to the lack of standardization, including inconsistencies in evaluations systems and a lack of organized onboarding methods and training.

Types of Peer Review System

There has been a rise in various new models of peer review systems that overcome these limitations. The global movements in publishing have supported these new models like the open science movement. These models attempt to refine the peer review process for greater transparency and efficiency. At the same time, efforts are also being made toward recognizing and rewarding peer reviewers.

  • Open Peer Review - The reviewers' identities are disclosed to editors, authors, and readers.
  • Collaborative Peer Review - Peer reviewers and authors can interact and discuss recommended changes to the manuscript.
  • Post-publication Peer Review - After a research paper is published, reviewers can give their feedback and comments. It works in contrast to the formal peer review process i.e. pre-publication peer review.
  • Transferable/Cascading Peer Review - Publishers tend to transfer the rejected papers to a different journal with the peer review reports.

You can explore more about the types of peer-review here in detail.

Now, let us discuss the open peer review in detail as its usage and relevance is increasing day by day.

What is Openness in Peer Review (Open Peer Review - OPR)

As the open-access movement blossoms, there is also a parallel development regarding openness and transparency in the peer-review process. It tries to ensure high-quality peer review is maintained before publications. At the same time, several aspects of traditional peer review methods are not suitable for the present time. For example, masking the authors' identity to peer reviewers (blind evaluation) was hypothesized as a way of avoiding conflicts of interest on the part of reviewers. Nevertheless, it has been proved that blinding cannot always be maintained in journal manuscripts for long.

Open access publications are now at the forefront as experiments with strategies to foster the growth of increasingly open science. Parallelly, open access journals are ideal for testing the merits of open, unblinded peer review. Another aspect of openness in peer review is also merit exploration. As manuscripts tend to get rejected after only the initial peer review, there is always a chance that the other journals would publish them or have low rejection rates.

The key concepts of open peer review are:

  • Open Identities: Authors' and reviewers' identities are revealed.
  • Open Reports: Reviews are also published with the article.
  • Open Participation: Readers can contribute to the review process.
  • Open Interaction: Reciprocal discussions between the two parties.
  • Open Pre-review Manuscripts: Manuscripts are immediately available before formal peer review.
  • Open Final-version Commenting: Comments or feedback are given on the final versions of the publications.

Is Peer Review Losing Its Importance In The Age of Open Access Publishing?

There is a persistent sense in the scholarly community about peer review losing its impotence. There have been grave mistakes in the author's methodology and these things have largely contributed to this feeling. However, we can not totally blame reviewers for these blunders. Due to their heavy workloads, they tend to commit these mistakes. Another reason could be the selection of dilettante reviewers, as they might not understand the subject matter or field of study.

Further, objections are frequently raised to the transparency of the peer-review process. Another drawback of the peer review system is the time it generally takes to complete a single research paper. It often consumes the precious time of the researchers from weeks to months to years.

Battling all the challenges and criticism, the publishing industry is certain that peer review would continue to play a monumental role in scholarly publishing. The evolving impact of new technology would unquestionably revolutionize the future of peer review. Due to the growing number of annual publications and journal articles, there is a huge demand for rich validation through peer review.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence could be instrumental in reviewer selection in the coming days. The journal publishers and editors are propelling for this to happen to increase the journals' effectiveness. There are also some initiatives supporting peer review with advanced blockchain technologies.

Final Thoughts

The advent of open access publishing and increase in the usage of open peer review bestows an ideal opportunity to increase the transparency in the peer review practices and its system. We have come to understand that the peer review process is certainly not without its shortcomings. The scholarly community needs to fully embrace open access publishing and the open peer review of the manuscripts. It will boost openness and quality in the scientific publishing of research data. The open peer evaluation of manuscripts can be done by signing peer reviews and publishing reviews online. This will substantially contribute to academia's advancement and the global high-quality scholarly output.

To sum up, peer review would continue to serve as the backbone of academic publishing. The whole scholarly community, including practitioners, authors, publishers, and reviewers, is adopting the new age peer review. At the same time, they are looking forward to innovations addressing reliability, transparency, and standardization in the peer review system.

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