Benefits of SciOR

Twitter picture - small  SciOR

is based on an open (non-blind) author-directed peer review (ADPR) model, with many advantages over traditional journal/editor-directed blind peer review:

(1)  More rapid publication

ADPR avoids the common fate of manuscripts sitting for weeks on the desks of busy/neglectful editors, waiting to be sent out for review, stalled by the difficulty of finding willing reviewers, or waiting to be processed for author revision in response to reviewer comments.  With the ADPR model, all of this is already addressed and completed prior to journal submission.  Many editors now respond to the difficulty of finding reviewers by inviting them from the list of ‘preferred’ reviewers that authors are now required to provide during submission to most journals — and so a form of ‘author-directed peer review’ is already routinely practiced by many journals.  In addition, rather than waiting for a posted paper to attract unsolicited informal, anonymous commentary on a pre-print server, SciOR allows authors to fast-track their papers through the formal peer-review stage, quickly producing a revised paper together with reviews solicited directly from the best reviewers, ready for a publication offer from journal editors.

(2)  Reduced need for author fees charged by journals

Because journals/editors are not involved with the often frustrating and time-consuming tasks of arranging and managing peer-review (searching, correspondence, processing, handling), journal charges for author fees by open access electronic journals can be substantially reduced.  The author fee for Proceedings of Science Open Reviewed is only CAN $99 ($49 for grad students and postdocs) (waived for 2013).

(3)  Relief for the ‘tragedy of the reviewer commons’

Because the reviewing is done only once, there is no need for multiple reviewing by multiple reviewers when authors need to submit the same paper to additional journals following earlier rejection from other journals.  This means less wasteful/redundant reviewing (hence more rapid publication) — and importantly, a profoundly reduced workload for the academic community in general.

(4)  Simultaneous submission to multiple journals

Because the journal is not involved in arranging peer review, and the reviewing is already done, there should be no reason why the author could not submit the paper to several journals at the same time — just as several journal editors can, at the same time, view a paper posted (as ‘available for publication’) on SciOR while deciding whether to make a publication offer.  This allows authors to find acceptance more rapidly, plus it maximizes their chances of publishing in the most desirable possible journal — contributing again to more rapid and more visible publication, and hence the progress of science.

(5)  Greater reviewer incentive

Although the ADPR model does not require that reviewers be paid, such compensation may be necessary in order for many reviewers (especially those in highest demand) to allocate reviewing time (e.g. on weekends or evenings) within a demanding work schedule and a busy personal life.  Even without remuneration, SciOR provides the principal advantage of reviewer incentive through: (i) reviewer acknowledgement in published articles; (ii) opportunity for reviewers to publish a peer-reviewed commentary on the reviewed paper (in the event that it is published); and (iii) a registered record of reviewer service/reputation with SciOR.  In the traditional ‘honour’ system model for peer review, authors are essentially obligated, and in some cases literally ‘forced’ to review manuscripts in return for opportunity to have their own manuscripts reviewed.  Best efforts and high quality outcomes—in any task—are rarely achieved by force.  In contrast, rather than being ‘forced’ to review, or ‘too busy’ to review, incentives with the ADPR model—managed through SciOR—encourage scientists to compete with each other as ‘reviewers for hire’, especially for opportunity to review the best papers.  This frees up the best authors to do what they do best (which may not include the best reviewing), and it rewards the best reviewers for what they do best (the best reviewing).  Importantly, this also expands the reviewer pool, which is currently limited by the connections, familiarity, or imagination of overworked editors under the traditional model.

(6)  Higher quality manuscripts (less reviewing-time spent on poorly-prepared papers)

With a pay-for-service reviewing model, authors should be especially careful in producing a high quality manuscript before sending it out for first review (to avoid unnecessary payment for multiple reviews of multiple revisions). This contributes, with the above factors, to promoting greater overall efficiency of the peer-review system, and more rapid progress of science.

(7)  Higher quality reviews

Opportunity for paid service combined with published reviewer acknowledgement, and opportunity for reviewers to publish their peer-reviewed commentaries on reviewed papers, not only minimize reviewer bias and promote greater reviewer accountability, but also engages reviewers more directly, more cooperatively, and more productively in the mission for discovery that the manuscript represents.  At SciOR, authors and reviewers work to together to improve papers.  A particularly helpful reviewer might in some cases evolve into a co-author of the paper, at the author’s discretion.

(8)  Self-generating reputation economy for reviewers

Because reviewer names are disclosed within the published paper, their reputations are automatically public and ‘on the line’.  Most reviewers, therefore, are likely to be honest, fair and rigorous in their reviews; plus, if their reputations suffer, reviewers will lose out on potential income from future reviewing.  Reviewers will not want their names associated as endorsements for inferior papers — at least not reviewers that will be regarded as having integrity with journals and authors.  For the same reasons, reviewers will not want their names associated with papers for which there is a conflict (or perceived conflict) of interest with the author — especially since a registered review must be accompanied by the reviewer’s declaration of no-conflict-of-interest (NCOI).  Importantly, with the ADPR model, and with a track record of reviewing service logged with SciOR, reviewers have an opportunity to become a ‘career reviewer’ by developing reputations for high-quality reviewing service.  Better reviewers therefore will be in higher demand—like paid columnists/critics in popular media—thus providing potential for supplemental income for post-docs, adjunct faculty, graduate students, emeritus faculty (in retirement), or during a reduced academic appointment.

(9)  Self-generating reputation economy for authors

In the traditional blind peer-review model, where editors secretly choose who does the reviewing, there is very little opportunity for quality control.  In most instances, editors are forced to settle for whoever is willing to volunteer to provide a gratuitous review, and no one except the editor has knowledge of the reviewer’s credibility or track record of reviewing quality.  With many traditional journals—because of low reviewer incentive—commonly a dozen or more requests are sent before willing reviewers for a manuscript can be arranged, and so they are not the most ‘preferred’—and hence not the best possible—reviewers for judging the quality of the manuscript.  In contrast, with the ADPR model, authors have opportunity to seek and arrange review of their papers from the best reviewers and most reputable researchers in their fields—and can also avoid reviewers that the author suspects might be a ‘competitor’ or likely to provide a ‘retaliatory’ review.  Editors, in contrast, are usually not sufficiently informed—nor as inclined—to avoid such biased reviewers.  Having the endorsement of a top quality, unbiased reviewer/researcher in hand when submitting to a journal (and acknowledged in the published paper) represents strong evidence in support of the paper’s merit. The quality/impact of an article therefore may be judged as much or more by who the acknowledged reviewers are (combined with the article’s citation metrics), than by the impact-factor of the publishing journal.  Authors, therefore, will not be inclined to request reviews from close colleagues in order to avoid the perception of cronyism — especially since registered papers must be accompanied by the author’s declaration of no-conflict-of-interest (NCOI), and many editors and readers of published papers tend to know (or can easily discover) the identities of an author’s previous collaborators and close associates.

(10)  Paying reviewers for their services puts money back into the hands of front-line researching colleagues rather than into the bank accounts of profit-driven publishers — plus, income earned from one’s own reviewing can be used to pay reviewers for one’s own manuscripts, and also to pay for author fees of open-access journals

Because the ADPR model allows open-access journals to reduce their operating costs, and hence their author fees, this leaves more author funds available to pay for one’s own manuscript reviews; plus, the remaining (reduced) cost for author fees can also be addressed through income earned from paid reviewing.  In other words, one can earn enough income as a reviewer to cover both the costs of paying reviewers for one’s own manuscripts, plus the costs of author fees for publishing one’s own papers in open-access electronic journals.  This is analogous to how real estate markets work:  if financially constrained, you cannot buy a new house without first selling your current house, which in turn requires that the potential buyer (of your house) must first sell his/her house.  With the ADPR model, however, there are no analogous real estate agents or lawyers to pay, and hence much of the money needed to support both ADPR and open-access publication is put back into the hands of front-line researchers, rather than into building profits for commercial publishers in the traditional peer-review system.  Costs for paying reviewers could also be included as a legitimate line item for budgets in grant applications, just as it is routine to include budget entries for other professional services, e.g. statistical data analyses, molecular genetic lab analyses, soil chemistry lab analyses, English-editing service for non-English speaking researchers, and journal page charges/author fees.