Re: Open peer commentary

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Thu, 20 May 2010 08:39:07 -0500

Dear Helene,

Thank you for your posting.

I have nothing to add except to caution that Open Peer Commentary is a
useful supplement to classical peer review, definitely to a substitute
for it. And there are practical and conceptual problems with the
various notions of "open peer review" that have yet to be tested to
see whether they are viable, sustainable and scaleable.

In general, the goal of Open Access to peer-reviewed research should
not be confused or conflated with speculation and experimentation on
peer review reform. The goal of OA is to free peer reviewed research
such as it is from access barriers, not to free research from peer
review, nor even to reform peer review.

Peer review is just the vetting of specialized findings by qualified
specialists (the referees), answerable to a qualified meta-specialist
(the editor) who is in turn answerable the the specialist community
(the users) through the track-record of the journal.

The implementation of peer review can certainly be -- and is being --
optimized through the use of the online medium, but that has next to
nothing to do with either OA. And Open Peer Commentary (as well as
tagging, and increasingly rich metrics) are welcome complements to OA.
But they are yet to be anywhere near fully explored and exploited,
because we are not yet anywhere near OA!

See this Forum's archives of past discussion of peer review reform:

Stevan Harnad

On Thu, May 20, 2010 at 3:39 AM, Hélène.Bosc <> wrote:
> I read with interest the abstract of article written by Ulrich Pöschl (see
> below)  praising open peer commentary used in the periodical Atmospheric
> Chemistry and Physics created in 2001. Unfortunatly I could'nt get the full
> text.
> But this abstract is enough to say that I totally agree with the benefits of
> this "new " way of reviewing, and I will pratice it on this forum,
> precisely for the Ulrich Pöschl's article.
> The first point is that this "new "way of reviewing in an open journal,
> detected by Ulrich Pöschl in 2001, was imagined for the first time in
> 1990 in Psycholoquy, one of the first online open access journal (cf.
> Wikipedia ;-)) created by Stevan
> Harnad
> The second point is that this kind of peer review was also practiced for
> years in a well known periodical with a hight IF: Behavioral Brain Science
> (also created by Stevan Harnad).
> Please see the editorial of BBS (2002) where you can read :"It is only now,
> in the online era, that the Open Peer Commentary feature will at last come
> into its
> own..."
> I imagine that some details are missing in my commentary,  but I am sure
> that S. Harnad will add on his turn some "open peer commentaries" on my
> commentaries.
> I don't know if the 2 following references are quoted in the article, but I
> am sure that  Stevan Harnad 's name, Psycholoquy and Behavioral Brain
> Science should have appeared in the abstract near Atmospheric Chemistry and
> Physics.
> Harnad, S. (1997) Learned Inquiry and the Net: The Role of Peer Review, Peer
> Commentary and Copyright. Learned Publishing 11(4) 283-292. Short version
> appeared in 1997 in Antiquity 71: 1042-1048. Excerpts also appeared in the
> University of Toronto Bulletin: 51(6) P. 12.
> Harnad, S. (1998/2000/2004) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature
> [online] (5 Nov. 1998), Exploit Interactive 5 (2000): and in Shatz, B.
> (2004) (ed.) Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. Rowland & Littlefield.
> Pp.235-242.
> Hélène Bosc
> ________________________________
> "Interactive open access publishing and public peer review:The effectiveness
> of transparency and self regulation in scientific quality assurance.
> Ulrich Pöschl
> The traditional forms of scientific publishing and peer review do not live
> up to the demands of efficient communication and quality assurance in
> today’s highly diverse and rapidly evolving world of science. They need to
> be complemented by interactive and transparent forms of review, publication,
> and discussion that are open to the scientific community and to the public.
> The advantages of open access, public peer review and interactive discussion
> can be efficiently and flexibly combined with the strengths of traditional
> publishing and peer review. Since 2001 the benefits and viability of this
> approach are clearly demonstrated by the highly successful interactive open
> access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP,
> and a growing number of sister journals launched by
> the publisher Copernicus ( and the European Geosciences
> Union (EGU, These journals are practicing a two-stage process
> of publication and peer review combined with interactive public discussion,
> which effectively resolves the dilemma between rapid scientific exchange and
> thorough quality assurance. The same or similar concepts have recently also
> been adopted in other disciplines, including the life sciences and
> economics. Note, however, that alternative approaches where interactive
> commenting and public discussion are not fully integrated with formal peer
> review by designated referees tend to be less successful. The principles,
> key aspects and achievements of interactive open access publishing (top
> quality and impact, efficient self-regulation and low rejection rates,
> little waste and low cost) are outlined and discussed. Further information
> is available on the internet:
> public_relations.html
> ________________________________
Received on Thu May 20 2010 - 14:39:41 BST

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