Making Peer Reviewers More Visible, And Maybe Easier To Recruit

The topic of this post provides a good opportunity to remind readers that I am a science policy analyst, not a research scientist in science policy.  That is, I’m not in a university or other research position where I participate directly in what is the commonly accepted practice of producing scientific papers.  The one journal publication (not a book review) that I have is from a board-reviewed rather than peer reviewed publication.

It’s a long paragraph to basically say, while what I’m posting about is the first of it’s kind that I’ve heard about, I certainly can’t claim to know there is nothing else out there doing the same kind of thing.

A New Zealand startup called Publons wants to put your peer-review activity online (H/T Nature).  The name is intended to mean the smallest unit of research that can be published – a research paper.  (Presumably, if we want to continue this atomic model inferred from the name, reviews would orbit the papers, but I digress.)

The site wants to work with both pre- and post- publication peer review.  Participants can forward their review receipts to Publons, designated how much or how little they want (and/or allowed to) make open access.  Editors at Publons will verify the peer-review activity through contact with journals and editors.  Post-publication reviews are encouraged, with reviewers submitting them to the website and the related papers would be part of discussions on site.  If post-publication reviews get enough endorsements, they will be given a DOI number and made part of the scientific literature.

Reviewers can also package their activity on the website for use in review and promotion materials for their institutions.  Top reviewers can also receive rewards from the site.

Publons is free for academics, thanks to some angel investors in New Zealand.  It is partnered with alternative metrics and review organizations, along with (for now) a journal and research institute.  I want this to succeed.  With the scrutiny that peer review is (or should be) getting in light of the increase in retractions and issues of research-related misconduct, having services like Publons available to make peer review more visible could help address these challenges.

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