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Attitudes of Scientific Journal Editors Towards Open Peer Review

    Aim

    This paper aims to present attitudes of editors of the Croatian scientific journals in the field of social sciences and humanities about changes in the peer review process and acceptance of open peer review as perceived by the editors (and / or their assistants).

    Background

    In spite of the ever-growing number of articles written in the last few decades about the necessity of change of peer review process, it seems as if peer review process is still not changing (quickly enough – as the current peer review system is considered bad) or that there is no wider interest among scientists and journal editors in recent changes introduced by different initiatives like open peer review. The proof for this statement is the inability of a potential author to find author guidelines of scientific journals around the world in substantial numbers offering open peer review or similar process significantly different from the mainstream and well established closed peer review process. In comparison to the older type (or types) of peer review process which is well researched and described as “a relatively optimised process, generally well-understood as a theory and a practice, and stable due to its widespread adoption and acceptance as a method” (1), open peer review is still less researched. One could argue that open peer review is not present in scientific community long enough to be researched thoroughly and, as a result, it is still not accepted as widely as the current peer review process. Consequentially, there are less published research articles on this topic that could be consulted by journal editors when thinking about implementing open peer review in their journal. Ross-Hellauer and Görögh (2) are optimistic about immediate future of open peer review and they state that open peer review “is moving into the mainstream, but it is often poorly understood and surveys of researcher attitudes show important barriers to implementation”. Same authors also point out that implementation of different innovations covered by the term open peer review requires guidelines to guide this implementation in order for it to be widely accepted. Now we know that we are missing such guidelines even if we (as journal editors) decide to implement it. Tennant (1), on the other hand is not optimistic and suggests that “uptake of new models of peer review appears to have been so low compared to what is often viewed as the ‘traditional’ method of peer review”. Bali (3) provided us with a realistic approach to acceptance of open peer review and she pointed out not speed of its implementation but potential of submitted manuscripts to be improved and published. For her open peer review is not about accepting poor works (as some are afraid) but it is about discovering potential of every work and its improvement to achieve publication. This potential remains undiscovered in cases of many scientific journals many countries sorting through many submitted manuscripts and applying traditional peer review. In Croatia there are very few researches and publications explaining what open peer review is. Stojanovski (4) wrote about open peer review and concluded that the Croatian scientific community is unprepared for its acceptance and that it is a surprise when taking into account the importance of peer review in scientific publishing. Vrana (5) wrote about editorial challenges in a small (Croatian) scientific community and found out that journal editors have difficulties in finding reviewers for the traditional close peer review. Open peer review is still no serious option in the Croatian scientific journals especially in small scientific communities in which everyone knows everyone else and because it is difficult to find potential reviewers. This research aims to find out whether this situation changed for the better.

    Methods

    The first part of the paper will be based on literature about peer review in general and open peer review in particular. The second part of the paper will be based on an online survey of editors of the Croatian scientific journals in the field of social sciences and humanities. The invitation for participation in the research was sent to e-mail address of journals of editors of scientific journals found on the portal of scientific journals “Hamster” in the fields of social sciences and humanities, their responses collected and processed.

    Results and Discussion

    The results showed differences in attitudes towards open peer review in different journals. Almost no journal applied open peer review, they also did not publish reviews on the journal’s Web site; very few of them published data supporting the article on the journal’s Web site; they allowed comments about published articles very infrequently; very few journals planned to make available some type of open public communication between journal, authors and reviewers. In spite of mostly non-existent experience in open peer review and open communication, the respondents showed positive attitudes towards values of open peer review. Finally, very few journals in this research was ready to implement open peer review. The research also showed that editors still have same problems as indicated in previous research done by Vrana (5).

    Conclusion

    There is a need for coordinated action of the experts in scientific community in Croatia who are researching this problem and help to journal editors to improve the current state of peer review and possibly to implement open peer review.

    • Radovan VranaRadovan VranaUniversity of Zagreb

      Born in Zagreb, Croatia. Primary and secondary education completed in Zagreb. Croatia. Graduated information sciences and the English… More →