Open peer review is a process in which names of reviewers of papers submitted to academic journals are disclosed to the authors of the papers in question. In some cases, as with the BMJ and BioMed Central, the process also involves posting the entire pre-publication history of the article online, including not only signed reviews of the article, but also its previous versions and author responses to the reviewers.
There is no single definition of open peer review, as it is implemented differently by different academic journals, but it has been broadly defined as "any scholarly review mechanism providing disclosure of author and referee identities to one another at any point during the peer review or publication process".
Possible advantages to an open peer-review system include reviewers being "more tactful and constructive" than they would be if they could remain anonymous. It has also been argued that open review leads to more honest reviewing and prevents reviewers from following their individual agendas, as well as leading to the detection of reviewers' conflicts of interests. Some studies have also found that open peer review is associated with an increase in quality of reviews, although other studies have not found such an association. A study of BioMed Central medical journals, all of which use open peer review, found that reviewers usually did not notice problems or request changes in reporting of the results of randomized trials. The same study found most, but not all, of the requested changes had a positive effect on reporting.
A 1999 study found that open peer review did not affect the quality of reviews or the recommendation regarding whether the paper being reviewed should be published, but that it "significantly increased the likelihood of reviewers declining to review". Open review of abstracts tended to lead to bias favoring authors from English-speaking countries and prestigious academic institutions. It has also been argued that open peer review could lead to authors accumulating enemies who try to keep their papers from being published or their grant applications from being successful.
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