OA Journals & Peer Review

This week (Sept 28 – Oct 2) is the first ever Peer Review Week. A number of scholarly publishing organizations are collaborating to celebrate this important process and promote discussion of the new experiments in peer review regularly emerging. Since this is the Open Access @ UofS Library blog I thought I’d contribute to the week’s festivities by highlighting peer review as it relates to open access.

One of the most pernicious and persistent myths about OA journals is that they’re not peer reviewed. Or that the peer review is somehow less rigorous than in traditional subscription journals. I hear this from faculty pretty regularly (twice so far this month), and more than a decade into the OA movement it is a bit tiresome to keep responding to this. But here goes…

To quote Peter Suber: OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance.

Journals, whether subscription or OA, can be of varying quality/reputation/impact irrespective of their business or access models. Yes, there are unscrupulous scam artists out there that will take advantage of the “author pays” OA business model to make a quick dollar; but there are also traditional subscription publishers that retract papers because of unethical peer review practices or other failures in the system.

The most recent such example involved Springer:

“Springer confirms that 64 articles are being retracted from 10 Springer subscription journals, after editorial checks spotted fake email addresses, and subsequent internal investigations uncovered fabricated peer review reports.” – Aug 18. 2015

(An aside: RetractionWatch is a great site to follow if you’re interested in this shady side of academia).

Some have suggested that traditional commercial publishers encourage this persistent myth. But in recent years these traditional publishers are finding new revenue streams in launching OA or hybrid options of their own. Let’s use Springer as an example again: see SpringerOpen for a traditional publisher’s OA and hybrid options. So… are all of Springer OA journals questionable simply because they are OA? Of course not.

Michael Eisen perhaps said it best:

“To suggest … that the problem with scientific publishing is that open access enables internet scamming is like saying that the problem with the international finance system is that it enables Nigerian wire transfer scams.”

Further reading:
Open access: six myths to put to rest
Assessing the scamminess of a purported open-access publisher