Let’s re­cy­cle

Jour­nal tries ‘por­ta­ble peer re­view’

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - [email protected]­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

A bi­ol­ogy jour­nal’s plan to share peer re­view re­ports on pa­pers it does not ul­ti­mately pub­lish with ri­val pe­ri­od­i­cals has pro­voked de­bate about ef­forts to re­duce waste in sci­en­tific com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

BMC Bi­ol­ogy, pub­lished by BioMed Cen­tral, part of Springer Na­ture, has said that its “por­ta­ble peer re­view” pol­icy would al­low re­views of pa­pers that had been re­jected to be passed to other jour­nals, free of charge, ex­cept in cases where the re­search had been deemed sci­en­tif­i­cally un­sound.

The hope is that this will re­duce du­pli­ca­tion of ef­fort across dif­fer­ent ti­tles and al­low pa­pers to be pub­lished more swiftly.

Mirna Kvajo, chief ed­i­tor of BMC Bi­ol­ogy, said that the cur­rent sys­tem of fresh peer re­view with each sub­mis­sion meant that there were “a lot of re­views, time and ef­fort which are go­ing to waste”.

“We hope that other jour­nals and pub­lish­ers will also want to re­duce the wasted time and ef­fort within the pub­lish­ing process,” said Dr Kvajo. “Por­ta­ble peer re­view is a way to pro­vide bet­ter ser­vice to au­thors, whose pa­pers will reach the com­mu­nity faster, and via a process that aims to be less stress­ful.”

BMC Bi­ol­ogy would also be “in­ter­ested in be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of por­ta­ble peer re­view”, Dr Kvajo said. More broadly, she said that she hoped the move would help to kill off some of the ex­ist­ing taboo around re­jec­tion within aca­demic pub­lish­ing. “Just be­cause a man­u­script has been re­jected doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally mean it is un­sound sci­ence,” Dr Kvajo said.

How­ever, aca­demics have ex­pressed con­cern that ed­i­tors might be less likely to pub­lish a paper if its pre­vi­ous re­jec­tion by an­other jour­nal was spelled out so ex­plic­itly.

Philip Mo­ri­arty, pro­fes­sor of physics at the Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham, said that while por­ta­ble peer re­view was “great in prin­ci­ple” and “pro­vides much more trans­parency and less wasted ef­fort”, it might not catch on.

“Au­thors aren’t ob­li­gated to state that a man­u­script has been re­jected from an­other jour­nal,” he noted. “I sus­pect that many will feel that they may want to keep pre­vi­ous re­jec­tion(s) quiet [as it] could well skew the re­view process.”

Rus­sell Fos­ter, pro­fes­sor of cir­ca­dian neu­ro­science at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, said that the oft-cited rea­son for re­jec­tion that a paper “re­quires a more spe­cial­ist jour­nal” was “usu­ally just code for it be­ing no good”.

“I would be re­luc­tant to take on some­one else’s re­port as I like to look at a paper with an open mind,” Pro­fes­sor Fos­ter said.

BMC Bi­ol­ogy is not the first or­gan­i­sa­tion to ex­per­i­ment with por­ta­ble peer re­view, but the move­ment suf­fered a blow in 2017 when two com­pa­nies that of­fered such a ser­vice, Rubriq and Ax­ios Re­view, closed down.

The jour­nal was the first to post peer re­view re­ports and the name of the re­viewer along­side pub­lished ­ar­ti­cles.

Pass it on ‘por­ta­ble peer re­view is a way to pro­vide bet­ter ser­vice to au­thors’, says the chief ed­i­tor of BMC Bi­ol­ogy

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