14: Decoupling peer review from publishing

This is adapted from our recent paper in F1000 Research, entitled “A multi-disciplinary perspective on emergent and future innovations in peer review.” Due to its rather monstrous length, I’ll be posting chunks of the text here in sequence over the next few weeks to help disseminate it in more easily digestible bites. Enjoy!

This section describes some of the recent initiatives designed to decouple peer review from the journal publishing process itself. Previous sections:

  1. An Introduction.
  2. An Early History
  3. The Modern Revolution
  4. Recent Studies
  5. Modern Role and Purpose
  6. Criticisms of the Conventional System
  7. Modern Trends and Traits
  8. Development of Open Peer Review
  9. Giving Credit to Referees
  10. Publishing Review Reports
  11. Anonymity Versus Identification
  12. Anonymity Versus Identification (II)
  13. Anonymity Versus Identification (III)

One proposal to transform scholarly publishing is to decouple the concept of the journal and its functions (e.g., archiving, registration and dissemination) from peer review and the certification that this provides. Some even regard this decoupling process as the “paradigm shift” that scholarly publishing needs (Priem & Hemminger, 2012). Some publishers, journals, and platforms are now taking a more adventurous exploration of peer review that occurs subsequent to publication (Figure 3). Here, the principle is that all research deserves the opportunity to be published (usually pending some form of initial editorial selectivity), and that filtering through peer review occurs subsequent to the actual communication of research articles (i.e., a publish then filter process). This is often termed “post-publication peer review,” a confusing terminology based on what constitutes “publication” in the digital age, depending on whether it occurs on manuscripts that have been previously peer reviewed or not (blogs.openaire.eu/?p=1205), and a persistent academic view that published equals peer reviewed. Numerous venues now provide inbuilt systems for post-publication peer review, including RIOPubPubScienceOpenThe Winnower, and F1000 Research. Some European Geophysical Union journals hosted on Copernicus offer a hybrid model with initial discussion papers receiving open peer review and comments and then selected papers accepted as final publications, which they term ‘Interactive Public Peer Review’ (publications.copernicus.org/services/public_peer_review.html). Here, review reports are posted alongside published manuscripts, with an option for reviewers to reveal their identity should they wish (Pöschl, 2012). In addition to the systems adopted by journals, other post-publication annotation and commenting services exist independent of any specific journal or publisher and operating across platforms, such as hypothes.isPaperHive, and PubPeer.

Initiatives such as the Peerage of Science (peerageofscience.org), RUBRIQ (rubriq.com), and Axios Review (axiosreview.org; closed in 2017) have implemented decoupled models of peer review. These tools work based on the same core principles as traditional peer review, but authors submit their manuscripts to the platforms first instead of journals. The platforms provide the referees, either via subject-specific editors or via self-managed agreements. After the referees have provided their comments and the manuscript has been improved, the platform forwards the manuscript and the referee reports to a journal. Some journal policies accept the platform reviews as if the reviews were coming from the journal’s pool of reviewers, while others still require the journal’s handling editor to look for additional reviewers. While these systems usually cost money for authors, these costs can sometimes be deducted from any publication fees once the article has been published. Journals accept deduction of these costs because they benefit by receiving manuscripts that have already been assessed for journal fit and have been through a round of revisions, thereby reducing their workload. A consortium of publishers and commercial vendors recently established the Manuscript Exchange Common Approach (MECA; manuscriptexchange.org) as a form of portable review in order to cut down inefficiency and redundancy. Yet, it still is in too early a stage to comment on its viability.

LIBRE (openscholar.org.uk/libre) is a free, multidisciplinary, digital article repository for formal publication and community-based evaluation. Reviewers’ assessments, citation indices, community ratings, and usage statistics, are used by LIBRE to calculate multiparametric performance metrics. At any time, authors can upload an improved version of their article or decide to send it to an academic journal. Launched in 2013, LIBRE was subsequently combined with the Self-Journal of Science (sjscience.org) under the combined heading of Open Scholar (openscholar.org.uk). One of the tools that Open Scholar offers is a peer review module for integration with institutional repositories, which is designed to bring research evaluation back into the hands of research communities themselves (openscholar.org.uk/open-peer-review-module-for-repositories/). Academic Karma is another new service that facilitates peer review of preprints from a range of sources (academickarma.org/).


Tennant JP, Dugan JM, Graziotin D et al. A multi-disciplinary perspective on emergent and future innovations in peer review [version 3; referees: 2 approved]F1000Research 2017, 6:1151 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.12037.3)

6 thoughts on “14: Decoupling peer review from publishing

  1. Hmm, I would strongly disagree that peerageofscience.org could be callef “traditional peer review” : Open Engagement, Peer-review-of-peer-review, Concurrent Consideration by multiple journals?

    Also, Peerage of Science is free for scientists (journals pay)

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