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PLOS Journals Now OPEN for Published Peer Review

 

Starting today, ALL PLOS journals will offer authors the option to publish their peer review history alongside their accepted manuscript! We’ve been excited to make this announcement, and make major strides towards a more open publication process, since last fall when we signed ASAPbio’s open letter committing to transparent peer review options.

What will it look like?

Our philosophy going into this project has been to open up the peer review process in a way that gives authors and reviewers more choices about how they publish and claim credit for their work.

As before, our peer review process defaults to single-blind, although reviewers have the option to sign their names to their reviews if they wish. What we’ve added to our process is an option at acceptance for authors to decide whether to publish the full peer review history alongside their work. This package includes the editor’s full decision letter, complete with reviewer comments and authors’ responses for each revision of the manuscript. Peer review history will have its own DOI enabling reviewers to take credit and earn citations for their contributions. If the reviewers have chosen to sign their reviews, their name will also appear on the published reviews but they can also chose to remain anonymous.

All manuscripts submitted after May 22, 2019 will be eligible for this option if accepted at a PLOS Journal. Here’s a look at the variations of open our opt-in model provides:

 

A major step for PLOS, and scholarly communication

The peer review history reveals crucial perspectives and decisions that supply additional context for readers and researchers. Because of the potential benefits, we’re making this option available now on all seven PLOS journals.

Other journals that have experimented with published peer review models have shown that the quality of feedback provided is at least as good as other models – we think it has the potential to be even better through increased accountability and transparency. We’re building off the foundations and lessons learned by these examples and are confident our model can offer authors more choices to make their research and the publishing process open, and showcase the rigorous review of their work.

Through the scale of our publishing output across all seven PLOS journals, we see this as an opportunity to make a significant change in the scholarly communication landscape and lay the foundation for a more open view of the manuscript handling process from start to finish.

Open beyond Open Access

While the benefits of transparency are numerous, we see published peer review as a crucial first step towards solving two fundamental problems: reviewer credit and public understanding of the peer review process. So far, Open Access has made it possible for research to reach a global community of readers but we have not yet demonstrated the work that goes on behind the scenes to validate scientific claims.

Publishing peer review history is a means of enriching the scientific record by giving context to evaluation and publication decisions. We hope this is also an important step toward elevating peer reviews to scholarly outputs in their own right that reviewers can take credit for.

In conjunction with the work it describes, peer review history can also be a source of material for educating students and the general public about peer review. Our content is also machine readable, paving the way for deeper analysis and discussion by the community.

Looking ahead

We’ve developed this option in consultation with our editors who are dedicated to improving our journals, and we also committed to reporting back our findings. As we learn more about how published peer review shapes author and reviewer choices, and reader experience, we’ll continue to update you on what we find.

 

Discussion
  1. Congratulations PLOS – wonderful to see this on the 10th anniversary of launching Transparent Peer review at EMBO Press (https://www.nature.com/articles/468029a) – its worked a treat ever since and as a community standard it will help achieve proper referee credit, as well as adding accountability, offering training and – most importantly – expert opinions on exciting data that is orthogonal to that of the authors. We are also including referee cross-commenting and author preconsultations to enhance the peer review process and will encourage transparency on corrigenda and retractions in the future.

  2. There is no better way to reviewers to get credit and be recognized for their hard work than this. Congratulations PLoS.🤩

  3. I think this is a wonderful step forward for open science! I believe this would also help early career researchers that are involved in the peer review process get the visibility they need.

  4. Unfortunately these measures don’t go far enough. The peer review process is ripe for abuse, with reviewers often acting as gatekeepers to suppress contradictory evidence and dissenting opinions. Unfair/nonsensical criticisms, outlandish comments, barely legible use of language, and unethical recommendations are frequently encountered in peer review, and those responsible hide behind a shield of anonymity. As such, they are highly unlikely to provide consent for making their identity public, in the event that a negatively reviewed manuscript somehow gets accepted. This process should be made completely transparent by providing the identity of reviewer(s) and author(s), publishing reviews and comments for manuscripts which are ultimately not accepted, as well as those that are, as well as acknowledging any working relationships between the two parties.

  5. Unfortunately these measures don’t go far enough. The peer review process is ripe for abuse, with reviewers often acting as gatekeepers to suppress contradictory evidence and dissenting opinions. Unfair/nonsensical criticisms, outlandish comments, barely legible language, and unethical recommendations are frequently encountered in peer review, and those responsible hide behind a shield of anonymity. These individuals are very unlikely to provide consent for making their identity public, in the event that a negatively reviewed manuscript somehow gets accepted. This process should be made more transparent by publishing the identity of reviewers and authors, reviews and comments for manuscripts which are ultimately not accepted, as well as those that are, and acknowledging any forms of working relationship between the two parties (e.g. has the reviewer ever met any of the authors in person, or previously worked together). I suspect we might start to see some interesting trends emerge if this data were publicly available.

  6. I applaud this decision, but I also generally agree with Jamie. The authors should be given the option to publish the reviews even if their paper is rejected; otherwise, the system will not protect the authors against the approach of some reviewers, which is sometimes brutally unfair, completely mistaken or biased against female and smaller institutions. I would agree that the reviewers could stay anonymous, but let the other experts see it all. I expect that this could lead to positive changes in the review process.

  7. You are right in principle. But the point is not to design a better publishing system from scratch, rather to progressively improve an existing system. PLOS ONE is doing an important step in the right direction, hopefully they will eventually make further moves.

  8. Is the choice of publishing the peer review history ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’? This could greatly influence the uptake. I hope that openness will eventually be the default option.

  9. PLOS intentions are commendable. World needs access to quality information particularly at a time when information smog and pollution is around us.Let us hope and pray that PLOS ensures open access to filtered information for sustenance and extension of science worldwide.

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