Posted by: Jeremy Fox | June 14, 2012

Great minds think alike (when they’re trying to fix peer review)

PeerJ is a new open access publishing initiative which you join by paying a flat one-time fee, entitling you to publish as many open-access articles as you want for the rest of your life. Articles are peer reviewed for technical soundness. The initiative was founded by some serious scientific publishing bigshots.

But that’s not actually what I wanted to note. In passing, a recent Nature news article on PeerJ says that

To avoid running out of peer reviewers, every PeerJ member is required each year to review at least one paper or participate in post-publication peer review.

Hmm, wonder where I’ve heard that idea before? Wait, it’ll come to me…

p.s. Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that PeerJ got this idea from Owen Petchey and I. I just feel vindicated that something like our “PubCreds” idea would be incorporated into a serious publishing business venture. More than one, actually. This also vindicates a remark which scholarly publishing consultant Joseph Esposito made to me at a publishing conference: PubCreds will happen when someone figures out how to monetize it (or in this case, monetize a larger initiative, of which something like PubCreds is one component).


  1. I have always thought that for every paper I submit for review, I need to review 2-3 papers, as that is how many people review my paper. If I review less than that I feel like I am taking advantage of the system.

    • And you’re right! The trouble is, you have very weak incentives to behave that way, and very strong incentives to behave otherwise. Hence the need (if not now, then in the near future) for something like PubCreds (although the late Elinor Ostrom might argue otherwise).

  2. It’s another interesting initiative, and the Open Access integration puts it a step ahead of Peerage of Science, in my opinion.

    I think they’re being overly generous about the exchange rate for reviewing vs submission, I tend to think more in line with Skeeter’s 2:1 ratio (but happily discount all the crappy reviews I get for my submissions).

    And Jeremy, you shouldn’t underestimate the motivational power of good old fashioned Calvinist guilt. It’s always reminding me I should accept those nagging review requests.

    • If guilt was such a powerful motivator, there wouldn’t be any need for PubCreds.

      I assume they require only a minimal amount of reviewing/commenting for the sake of simplicity. Yes, this absolutely could come back to bite them, especially since they seem to have no mechanism to guarantee quality of reviews. Owen and I envisioned that reviews that were, in the view of the handling editor, too brief/sloppy to be useful would not earn payment. I could be wrong, but as far as I know there’s no equivalent mechanism at PeerJ.

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