Peer review is used primarily to judge pieces of research. It is the formal quality assurance mechanism whereby scholarly manuscripts (e.g., journal articles, books, grant applications and conference papers) are made subject to the scrutiny of others.
Open peer review aims to bring greater transparency and participation to formal and informal peer review processes. Being a peer reviewer presents researchers with opportunities for engaging with novel research, building academic networks and expertise, and refining their own writing skills.
A number of overlapping modes exist in which peer review is adapted to the aims of Open Science. Various aspects of open review are (first two being the most important):
- “open identities”, where both authors and reviewers are aware of each other’s identities (i.e., non-blinded),
- “open reports”, where review reports are published alongside the relevant article,
- “open participation”, where members of the wider community are able to contribute to the review process,
- “open interaction”, where direct reciprocal discussion between author(s) and reviewers, and/or between reviewers, is allowed and encouraged,
- “open pre-review manuscripts”, where manuscripts are made immediately available in advance of any formal peer review procedures (either internally as part of journal workflows or externally via preprint servers).
Open review brings a number of potential benefits:
- Open identities (non-blinded) review fosters greater accountability amongst reviewers and reduces the opportunities for bias or undisclosed conflicts of interest.
- Open review reports add another layer of quality assurance, allowing the wider community to scrutinize reviews to examine decision-making processes.
- In combination, open identities and open reports are theorized to lead to better reviews, as the thought of having their name publicly connected to a work or seeing their review published encourages reviewers to be more thorough.
- Open identities and open reports enable reviewers to gain public credit for their review work, encouraging this activity and allowing review work to be cited in other publications and in career development activities linked to promotion and tenure.
- Open participation could overcome problems associated with editorial selection of reviewers (e.g., biases, closed-networks, elitism). For early career researchers who do not yet receive invitations to review, such open processes may also present a chance to build their research reputation and practice their review skills.