Open peer review

Open peer review is the various possible modifications of the traditional scholarly peer review process. The three most common modifications to which the term is applied are:[1]

  1. Open identities: Authors and reviewers are aware of each other's identity.[2][3]
  2. Open reports: Review reports are published alongside the relevant article (rather than being kept confidential).
  3. Open participation: The wider community (and not just invited reviewers) are able to contribute to the review process.

These modifications are supposed to address various perceived shortcomings of the traditional scholarly peer review process, in particular its lack of transparency, lack of incentives, and wastefulness.[1]


Open identitiesEdit

Open peer review may be defined as "any scholarly review mechanism providing disclosure of author and referee identities to one another at any point during the peer review or publication process".[4] Then reviewer's identities may or may not be disclosed to the public. This is in contrast to the traditional peer review process where reviewers remain anonymous to anyone but the journal's editors, while authors' names are disclosed from the beginning.

Open reportsEdit

Open peer review may be defined as making the reviewers' reports public, instead of disclosing them to the article's authors only. This may include publishing the rest of the peer review history, i.e. the authors' replies and editors' recommendations. Most often, this concerns only articles that are accepted for publication, and not those that are rejected.

Open participationEdit

Open peer review may be defined as allowing self-selected reviewers to comment on an article, rather than (or in addition to) having reviewers who are selected by the editors. This assumes that the text of the article is openly accessible. The self-selected reviewers may or may not be screened for their basic credentials, and they may contribute either short comments or full reviews.[1]


Adoption by publishersEdit

These publishers and journals operate various types of open peer review:

Peer review at The BMJ,[9] BioMed Central,[10] EMBO,[11] eLife,[12] ReScience C,[7] and the Semantic Web journal[13] involves posting the entire pre-publication history of the article online, including not only signed reviews of the article, but also its previous versions and in some cases names of handling editors and author responses to the reviewers. Furthermore, eLife plans to publish the reviews not only for published articles, but also for rejected articles.[14]

The European Geosciences Union operates public discussions where open peer review is conducted before suitable articles are accepted for publication in the journal.[15]

Sci, an open access journal which covers all research fields, adapted a post publication public peer-review (P4R) in which it promised authors immediate visibility of their manuscripts on the journal's online platform after a brief and limited check of scientific soundness and proper reporting and against plagiarism and offensive material; the manuscript is rendered open for public review by the entire community.[16][17][18][19]

Open peer review of preprintsEdit

Some platforms, including some preprint servers, facilitate open peer review of preprints.

  • In 2019, the preprint server BioRxiv started allowing posting reviews alongside preprints, in addition to allowing comments on preprints. The reviews can come from journals or from platforms such as Review Commons.[20]
  • In 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform Outbreak Science Rapid PREreview was launched in order to perform rapid open peer review of preprints related to emerging outbreaks. The platform initially worked with preprints from medRxiv, bioRxiv and arXiv.[21]

Advantages and disadvantagesEdit


Open identities have been argued to incite reviewers to be "more tactful and constructive" than they would be if they could remain anonymous, while however allowing authors to accumulate enemies who try to keep their papers from being published or their grant applications from being successful.[22]

Open peer review in all its forms has been argued to favour more honest reviewing, and to prevent reviewers from following their individual agendas.[23]

An article by Lonni Besançon et al. has also argued that open peer review helps evaluate the legitimacy of manuscripts that contain editorial conflict of interests; the authors argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred many publishers to open up their review process, increasing transparency in the process.[24]


In an experiment with 56 research articles accepted by the Medical Journal of Australia in 1996–1997, the articles were published online together with the peer reviewers' comments; readers could email their comments and the authors could amend their articles further before print publication.[25] The investigators concluded that the process had modest benefits for authors, editors and readers.

Some studies have found that open identities lead to an increase in the quality of reviews, while other studies find no significant effect.[26]

Open peer review at BMJ journals has lent itself to randomized trials to study open identity and open report reviews. These studies did not find that open identities and open reports significantly affected the quality of review or the rate of acceptance of articles for publication, and there was only one reported instance of a conflict between authors and reviewers ("adverse event"). The only significant negative effect of open peer review was "increasing the likelihood of reviewers declining to review".[3][27]

In some cases, open identities have helped detect reviewers' conflicts of interests.[28]

Open participation has been criticised as being a form of popularity contest in which well known authors are more likely to get their manuscripts reviewed than others.[29] However, even with this implementation of Open Peer Reviews, both authors and reviewers acknowledged that Open Reviews could lead to a higher quality of reviews, foster collaborations and reduce the "cite-me" effect.

According to a 2020 Nature editorial,[5] experience from Nature Communications negates the concerns that open reports would be less critical, or would require an excessive amount of work from reviewers.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Ross-Hellauer, Tony (2017-08-31). "What is open peer review? A systematic review". F1000Research. F1000 Research Ltd. 6: 588. doi:10.12688/f1000research.11369.2. ISSN 2046-1402. PMC 5437951. PMID 28580134.
  2. ^ Walsh E, Rooney M, Appleby L, Wilkinson G (January 2000). "Open peer review: a randomised controlled trial". The British Journal of Psychiatry. 176 (1): 47–51. doi:10.1192/bjp.176.1.47. PMID 10789326.
  3. ^ a b van Rooyen S, Godlee F, Evans S, Black N, Smith R (January 1999). "Effect of open peer review on quality of reviews and on reviewers' recommendations: a randomised trial". BMJ. 318 (7175): 23–7. doi:10.1136/bmj.318.7175.23. PMC 27670. PMID 9872878.
  4. ^ Ford E (2015-07-20). "Open peer review at four STEM journals: an observational overview". F1000Research. 4: 6. doi:10.12688/f1000research.6005.2. PMC 4350441. PMID 25767695.
  5. ^ a b "Nature will publish peer review reports as a trial". Nature. 578 (7793): 8. 2020. Bibcode:2020Natur.578....8.. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-00309-9. PMID 32025024.
  6. ^ "Open Peer Review". PLOS. 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-09-02. Retrieved 2021-09-02.
  7. ^ a b Perkel, Jeffrey M. (2020-08-24). "Challenge to scientists: does your ten-year-old code still run?". Nature. 584 (7822): 656–658. Bibcode:2020Natur.584..656P. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-02462-7. PMID 32839567.
  8. ^ "Refereeing Procedure". SciPost. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  9. ^ Groves T, Loder E (September 2014). "Prepublication histories and open peer review at the BMJ". BMJ. 349 (sep03 13): g5394. doi:10.1136/bmj.g5394. PMID 25186622.
  10. ^ "What is 'open peer review', as operated by the medical journals in the BMC series?". BioMed Central. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  11. ^ Pulverer B (November 2010). "Transparency showcases strength of peer review". Nature. 468 (7320): 29–31. Bibcode:2010Natur.468...29P. doi:10.1038/468029a. PMID 21048742.
  12. ^ "Peer review". eLife. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  13. ^ Janowicz, Krzysztof; Hitzler, Pascal (January 2012). "Open and transparent: the review process of the Semantic Web journal". Learned Publishing. 25 (1): 48–55. doi:10.1087/20120107.
  14. ^ Kwon, Diana (2020-12-15). "Open-access journal eLife announces 'preprint first' publishing model". Nature. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-03541-5. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 33319829.
  15. ^ "Online + Open Access Publishing". European Geosciences Union. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  16. ^ Rittman, Martyn; Vazquez, Franck (June 2019). "Sci—An Open Access Journal with Post-Publication Peer Review". Sci. 1 (1): 1. doi:10.3390/sci1010001.
  17. ^ Jacob, Claus; Rittman, Martyn; Vazquez, Franck; Abdin, Ahmad Yaman (June 2019). "Evolution of Sci's Community-Driven Post-Publication Peer-Review". Sci. 1 (1): 16. doi:10.3390/sci1010016.v1.
  18. ^ Vazquez, Franck; Lin, Shu-Kun; Jacob, Claus (December 2020). "Changing Sci from Post-Publication Peer-Review to Single-Blind Peer-Review". Sci. 2 (4): 82. doi:10.3390/sci2040082.
  19. ^ Abdin, Ahmad Yaman; Nasim, Muhammad Jawad; Ney, Yannick; Jacob, Claus (March 2021). "The Pioneering Role of Sci in Post Publication Public Peer Review (P4R)". Publications. 9 (1): 13. doi:10.3390/publications9010013.
  20. ^ Brainard, Jeffrey (2019-10-10). "In bid to boost transparency, bioRxiv begins posting peer reviews next to preprints". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). doi:10.1126/science.aaz8160. ISSN 0036-8075.
  21. ^ Johansson, Michael A.; Saderi, Daniela (2020). "Open peer-review platform for COVID-19 preprints". Nature. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. 579 (7797): 29. Bibcode:2020Natur.579...29J. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-00613-4. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 32127711.
  22. ^ Decoursey, Thomas (March 1999). "Pros and cons of open peer review". Nature Neuroscience. 2 (3): 197–8. doi:10.1038/nature04991. PMID 10195206.
  23. ^ "What is peer review?". Elsevier. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  24. ^ Besançon, Lonni; Peiffer-Smadja, Nathan; Segalas, Corentin; Jiang, Haiting; Masuzzo, Paola; Smout, Cooper; Billy, Eric; Deforet, Maxime; Leyrat, Clémence (2020). "Open Science Saves Lives: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic". BMC Medical Research Methodology. 21 (1): 117. doi:10.1186/s12874-021-01304-y. PMC 8179078. PMID 34090351.
  25. ^ Bingham, Craig M.; Higgins, Gail; Coleman, Ross; Van Der Weyden, Martin B. (1998). "The Medical Journal of Australia internet peer-review study". The Lancet. 352 (9126): 441–445. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(97)11510-0. PMID 9708752. S2CID 34493476.
  26. ^ Lee CJ, Sugimoto CR, Zhang G, Cronin B (January 2013). "Bias in peer review". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 64 (1): 2–17. doi:10.1002/asi.22784.
  27. ^ van Rooyen S, Delamothe T, Evans SJ (November 2010). "Effect on peer review of telling reviewers that their signed reviews might be posted on the web: randomised controlled trial". BMJ. 341: c5729. doi:10.1136/bmj.c5729. PMC 2982798. PMID 21081600.
  28. ^ Benos DJ, Bashari E, Chaves JM, Gaggar A, Kapoor N, LaFrance M, Mans R, Mayhew D, McGowan S, Polter A, Qadri Y, Sarfare S, Schultz K, Splittgerber R, Stephenson J, Tower C, Walton RG, Zotov A (June 2007). "The ups and downs of peer review". Advances in Physiology Education. 31 (2): 145–52. doi:10.1152/advan.00104.2006. PMID 17562902.
  29. ^ Besançon, Lonni; Rönnberg, Niklas; Löwgren, Jonas; Tennant, Jonathan P.; Cooper, Matthew (2020). "Open up: a survey on open and non-anonymized peer reviewing". Research Integrity and Peer Review. 5 (1): 8. doi:10.1186/s41073-020-00094-z. ISSN 2058-8615. PMC 7318523. PMID 32607252.