Please see my proposal for peer-review reform.
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/peer-review-should-be-two-stage-science-first-process (Free registration required)
Here is an excerpt:
“Far too much emphasis is placed on who is proposing to do the research and the institutions with which they are associated, rather than on the actual science. Therefore, I recommend that review be conducted in two stages. Reviewers should initially receive only descriptions of the proposed research, written in the third person, with no preliminary results section or indication of the authors’ identities or affiliations. This would require that the proposal be evaluated and scored solely on the detail of its merits.”
“Accountability could be further improved by attributing each review to its author. Some might object that confidentiality allows reviewers to be more honest, fearing retaliation less. In fact, confidentiality allows reviewers more scope to favour friends, retaliate against foes and exploit their privileged access to the information in the proposal to advance their own research programmes. The National Institutes of Health reports having detected examples of these forms of misconduct.”
“Collectively, academics spend around 70 million hours every year evaluating each other’s manuscripts on the behalf of scholarly journals — and they usually receive no monetary compensation and little if any recognition for their effort.”
“Adjusted operating profit also grew 2% year-on-year to £942m, giving the publisher a profit margin of 37.1%, flat with last year’s 37%.”
Academics cannot figure it out?
I see the point of peer review differently — it is to 1)improve the quality of scientific information and communication and 2) determine whether this work is of the quality that justifies it to be shared with the wider scientific community.
The fact that publications have become currency for hiring, promotions, tenure, and reputation (with all the distortions such a currency-system imparts) does not negate the basic fact that a publication is meant to be a public communication with others — and as such, review by your peers should be considered a integral component of that public sharing. While every system has risks — such as the one identified by CW above – public reviews also protect those who are less powerful or who are presenting ideas heterodox to the reigning dominant views from harmful interference. We need to right the academic ship — to may views, policies and humble opinions are formed in reaction to the distortions that have crept in – returning to first principles might not be a bad way forward.
The point of peer review is to enable those commenting to be free from fear of retribution and thereby able to be candid in their statements. Allowing reviews to ‘go public’ would greatly hamper the ability of some (less powerful or reputed) researchers to speak openly. It seems like it is counter to the very idea of peer review that it be made open. This is why Publons has not taken off, IMHO.
I see your point.
Here’s a counterpoint. By staying anonymous, peer reviewers have and sometimes take the chance to (1) steal data or use it before publication and unreasonably trash a paper, and/or (2) help their friends and collaborators, while hampering their enemies and competitors. I’ve seen it up close and in person. It exists as a real thing, but I suspect the frequency of this is decreasing.
In my opinion, reviews that go public would not hamper the ability of some less powerful or reputed researchers to speak openly. Times are changing. If a reviewer feels unable to speak freely and in public in peer review, there is something wrong with the system and it needs to be fixed. Maybe paper submissions should be anonymous and peer review public. If politics is probative evidence, sunlight (transparency) on the exercise of power tends to kill rot (corruption and abuse). Why shouldn’t that also apply to peer review?
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