A tweet brought me to a PeerJ blog post on the uptake of open peer review. The post is worth reading. At PeerJ open review is an option – authors and reviewers can opt in or out, and only if both opt in is the reviewing history of a paper published. One thing that caught my eye was that while 80% of authors opt in, the total number of paper with open reviews is just 40%, which indicates that reviewers are more reticent.
Is the reticence of reviewers fear of reprisal or similar? Given that authors have the right of reply (even if rejected one can still argue the case, though that will definitely fail at J Univ. Rejection!), I would have thought some sort of dialogue might be less intimidating for the reviewers? There is another issue: are reviewers fearful of exposing their lack of knowledge? Reviewing manuscripts is hard. I sometimes find that from a technical standpoint I only understand part of the paper and have to hope that the other reviewers can cover the rest. Here J. Cell Biol. has an interesting approach, reviewers get to see the other reviews and alter theirs before the reviews go to the authors. Would reviewers feel more confident with this additional step? Another approach, which I sometimes use is to be upfront on what parts of a manuscript (or grant proposal) I am qualified to review.
I have had just one experience as an author of open review (at PeerJ), which was very positive.
I currently only review for open access journals (the good ones, not the scam journals) and learned society journals .Perhaps I should add an additional constraint: only review if my review is published or I am allowed to publish it?
I would welcome thoughts on these questions.