What effect does Open Access have on peer-review?

We ask Cambridge Head of Open Access and Data Publishing Matt Day.


Matt, are all Cambridge Open Access publications peer-reviewed?

Yes they are, and that’s something we take seriously here at the Press. Peer review is a linchpin in the publication processes that imbue our content with the authority and quality that is so important to readers and the wider community. Whether or not the content is Open Access makes no difference to this.


Do you see the situation changing?

Absolutely not. The Press has a responsibility to keep quality at the centre of all it does, and to provide content that is authoritative and trustworthy.


Why do some people associate Open Access with poor peer review?

It’s a disappointing fact that many people associate Open Access with lower quality content or a lack of peer-review. A Taylor & Francis survey[http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/explore/open-access-survey-june2014.pdf] in 2014 found that as much as 35% of respondents thought Open Access journals were lower quality than their subscription model counterparts. There are many reasons for that, but I’ll mention a couple.

First, it’s true that some publishers of OA content don’t pay the attention to peer review that they should. But that’s also true for non-OA content. The author-pays model has allowed publishers with low editorial standards to develop a business that would fail if they were dependent on selling the end product. But we should not extrapolate to thinking that OA means low quality. OA is too important for that.

Second, in some respects it is a shame that Open Access has come to include Green OA, which can sometimes refer to content that has not yet been through peer-review. I used to use the phrase Green Archiving, to help make the distinction when pre-final versions of the content are made OA. Of course Green OA can refer to final, peer-reviewed content made OA after an embargo period, but the Green Archiving aspect probably doesn’t help with perceptions that OA means lower quality content.


Can Open Access have other effects on peer review?

Yes. While we usually think about Open Access as being about access to and re-use of content, it can be more than that. Open publishing can mean greater transparency in the publication process itself.

There’s a fair amount of experimentation and innovation with more open peer review, and the Press is working with Publons[http://prw.publons.com], for example, to help reviewers get credit for their reviews. I believe that more openness within the peer review process itself is useful, such as the greater exchange of comments and discussion between peer reviewers to help ensure that the final decision to publish is the right one.

Open peer review – where reviewers’ reports are published alongside the final article – has been a success in some cases, and although researchers are divided on the matter many do support the option of signing reviews rather than sticking to traditional single- or double-blind peer review processes.

Overall, the combination of giving credit for peer reviewing and making the peer review processes more transparent are two important trends that I hope will become more mainstream. They will also help counter the perception that Open Access mean low quality.


Discover more about Open Access at Cambridge at Cambridge.org/openaccess




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