Research Remix

June 5, 2007

Sharing reviewer’s comments

Filed under: openaccess, openreviewing — Heather Piwowar @ 10:59 am

Nice post on Open Reading Frame, spurred by a thought-provoking letter in Nature about making reviewer’s comments publicly accessible after an embargo period. Excerpted:

Via Peer-to-Peer, Ariberto Fassati in this week’s Nature correspondence (sorry, toll access only):

Reviewers [of scientific publications] often make significant contributions in shaping discoveries. They suggest new experiments, propose novel interpretations and reject some papers outright. [...] It is well worth keeping a record of such work, for no history of science will be complete and accurate without it.

I therefore propose that journals’ records should be made publicly available after an adequate lapse of time, including the names of reviewers and the confidential comments exchanged between editors and reviewers. The Nobel Foundation makes all its records available after 50 years, as do many governmental and other institutions. This delay may be reduced for scientific journals to, perhaps, 15 or 20 years.

Now that’s a damn good idea: it’s long past time that reviewing got its due as an essential part of a scientist’s job, and opening the records should help to generate such recognition (to say nothing of the invaluable contribution to historiography of science). My only quibble: why 15 years? If six months is long enough for an embargo on a closed-access paper, why is it not also long enough to keep the reviews secret? I presume the idea is to prevent retaliation for harsh reviews, but if all the information is public it would take a truly dedicated holder of a truly heinous grudge to follow up (in such a way as not to get caught doing it!) after six or twelve months. More to the point, we can dramatically reduce the risk of such retaliation by changing the community attitude towards reviewing. If peer review becomes a fully acknowledged part of the job, excellence in which is respected and rewarded — and if everyone knows their reviews will be made public! — then low quality (gratuitously mean, ill-informed, lazy, self-serving, etc) reviews should be a thing of the past.

Great idea.

Worth noting: PLoS ONE now offers reviewers the option of making their reviews public shortly after publication (anonymously or not, see email here). Naive, brave, or both… I agreed [posted as a discussion on this article]. If anyone has constructive comments for improving my reviewing, I’m all ears.

Be the change you want to see!

Edited to add:

PLoS ONE plug for all readers: if you have any thoughts about the above article and/or review, please take a minute to add to the discussion at the PLoS ONE page. It is there exactly for this purpose!


  1. Two small steps…

    Two small but (I think) profound steps forward today, the common thread being movement towards openness: (1) Attila Csordas will be editing his doctoral thesis “live” on his blog. He won’t, at least for now, be including data or unpublished discussi…

    Trackback by Open Reading Frame — June 5, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  2. Just to bring it to notice, this idea has already been in use for a year and a half by the open access journal Biology Direct.

    Comment by Mauricio González-Forero — June 23, 2007 @ 1:23 pm

  3. Open review has been practiced for 7 years in Logical Biology

    The first open-review scientific journal in the world, Logical Biology ( for publications between 2000 and 2006 and for all of its publications), has been publishing scientific papers for 7 years now. It also publishes critical reviews on any of its publications as regular independent publication so that the reviewers can take normal credit for their contribution to scientific knowledge. It sent out invitations to those researchers whose publications were challenged and has objectively published any scientific opinions they expressed. As a matter of fact it even published invited negative reviews on publications by its editor-in-chief.
    After Logical Biology, there are several new-generation (all follow the open review/open comment principle) scientific journals now collectively located in one publishing space IM1 ( If you are interested in publishing your pioneering research and wish to see objective open evaluation on your work, try to submit your manuscript to one of these journals.

    Comment by Shi V. Liu — June 27, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

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