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Review of "Where are the carrots? A proposal to start crediting the peer reviewers for their contribution to science"

Published onOct 15, 2023
Review of "Where are the carrots? A proposal to start crediting the peer reviewers for their contribution to science"

As a signatory of Publish Your Reviews, I have committed to publish my peer reviews alongside the preprint version of an article. For more information, see http://publishyourreviews.org.

In this short contribution the authors argue that the journal peer review system is in crisis and that addressing this crisis requires better ways to credit and incentivize researchers for performing peer review.

I am sympathetic to the proposal made by the authors, but I also have some suggestions for strengthening the proposal.

The authors argue that peer review should be made more transparent, but it is not entirely clear what they have in mind. The authors first propose to make the “practice of recognizing the reviewers by name the industry standard”. They then propose to make “all reviews openly accessible, not only as supplementary materials but as unique ‘citable’ contributions to the literature”. I find this a bit confusing. The authors seem to make two separate proposals for openness in peer review. The first proposal is about open identities. The second one is about open reports. It would be more clear if the authors could present a single integrated proposal instead of two separate ones.

It would also be helpful if the authors could give an overview of the evidence that is available on the effects of openness in peer review (open identities and/or open reports) on the willingness of researchers to perform peer review. It is sometimes suggested that researchers may be less (not more!) willing to perform peer review if the process is open, so the effect of openness on researchers’ willingness to perform peer review cannot be assumed to be positive. The following paper offers a good overview of the (limited) evidence available on the effects of openness in peer review: https://doi.org/10.31222/osf.io/r6t8p.

The authors also propose to make “reviews a part of the tenure criteria”. It might be relevant to mention that the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) recently established a working group on ‘Recognizing and Rewarding Peer Review’. This working group is going to work on this issue. See https://coara.eu/coalition/working-groups/. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the working group.)

“more and more journals are starting to recognize the reviewers by name in the published version of the manuscripts”: To show the growth in the number of journals that support open forms of peer review, the authors could refer to the following paper: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03488-4. ASAPbio also maintains a list of journals that support open peer review: https://asapbio.org/letter.

“With services such as Web of Science (formerly known as Publons), validated recordkeeping should not be an issue.”: A potential downside of Web of Science is that data on peer review is controlled by a commercial company, not by the academic community. Other services for managing peer review data, such as ORCID, may be preferable from this point of view.

Competing interests: I am one of the initiators of the Publish Your Reviews initiative (http://publishyourreviews.org/), which is partly based on ideas similar to those of the authors.

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