With the development of science and technology, academic publishing has also undergone a plethora of changes; the onus has shifted from print to digital and different business models have evolved over a period of time: Science Citation Index (SCI), Open Access, and Hybrid. However, peer review is still an integral part of the academic publishing industry.
Peer reviewers are hired by scholarly publishers for independently reviewing the scientific content of papers; these papers are submitted by all academics to indexed journals, either SCI or Open Access. However, the recent peer review scandal has shaken the integrity of most noted academic publishers: Elsevier, Springer, and Nature.
Many published articles in indexed journals have been withdrawn following the exposure. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to come to terms with the “fake email id” and “pseudonym” scandal that shook the very pillars of academia. Another story that shook the foundation of academia was the fact that authors really wanted to take charge of peer review process.
Authors are researchers from different disciplines; they carry out experimental research studies; these studies may require several months or years for completion. They have protested against the practice of peer review, which is being controlled by journal editors and publishers till date. This is because editors and publishers do not really participate in experimental research studies; they are only a facet to increase the impact of their research work.
Journal editors and publishers do not really add anything of value to any research manuscript; they are not “lab scientists” slogging out for long periods of time. Most post-doc researchers rue over long waiting periods after submission to respective journals. Since most noted cited journals receive more than 200 papers each year, the peer review process is actually a sham as it is conducted by a handful of volunteer peer reviewers.
The term “peer review” literally means a systematic assessment of the manuscript prior to publication. However, the manuscript preparation process is complex, involving several steps: factual checking, developmental editing, substantive editing, clarifications, content changes, etc. Many different parties are involved in this process: peer reviewers, scientific editors, technical editors, indexers, copy-editors, etc.
The academic community is unaware of the various process involved in journal production as most editorial processes are concealed under “Confidentiality Agreement”. Therefore, the time has come to bridge the gap between the academic community and publishers through “transparency.” Both academia and editorial professionals should work together to chalk out a plan on improving the “transparency of peer review process.” After all, academia and publishers both agree to the fact that “peer review” is the core building block for “scholarly publications.”
Any manipulation in peer review process would mean the dissemination of wrong science, which can have a devastating impact on future generations. Currently, both academia and publishers are now working together to come up with a set of standards for peer review. All independent reviewers would soon be provided with a set of guidelines for reviewing any academic paper.
The objectivity of novel scientific research should never be over-emphasized to promote something path-breaking; this would only pressurize scientists to perform statistical data fudging. A critical review of manuscript must be undertaken by scientific experts under the purview of some universally accepted framework of guidelines; this is the only way to ensure that “fake peer review” scams never recur and authors also gain greater control over their work.
The world of scholarly publications currently does have a document termed “Best Practices for Peer Review.” This framework was presented by the Association of University Presses two years ago; the document contains extensive guidelines for editors and members of editorial boards. Nevertheless, the Association of University Presses has still not constructed any set of standards for the peer review process, although peer review is a mandatory requirement for all scholarly journals.
Isn’t it perplexing that despite being a fundamental process of “scholarly publications,” the peer review process is still conducted without having a set of universally accepted standards. That’s why authors are today up in arms against publishers; the publishers have indeed made the peer review process a total sham that is conducted by a bunch of independent scientific experts on voluntary basis.
The Creative Commons is a good resource for constructing the standards of peer review. To ensure that the peer review process is conducted with greater transparency, the standards must take into account both the traditional (SCI) and emerging (Open Access) models of publishing. These standards would help us in defining the peer review process; the readers must be furnished with clear information about the process of systematic review, because this is the ONLY process that acts like a “make or break” level for manuscript publication.
Most readers are of the view that Open access is the fall out of the high rejection process by SCI journals. Only 15% papers are accepted and published by any SCI journal currently.So, what exactly does The Creative Commons do for educational publishers? It is a collaboration of several organizations that are working hard at creating and sharing knowledge freely across the world: Flickr, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Boundless, MITOpenCourseWare, and Youtube are the world’s leading organizations that have come together to build the platform of The Creative Commons.
Likewise, a platform must be developed for scholarly publishers to define the universally accepted guidelines for peer review: the public must be provided with a clear-cut description of the peer review processes.With each published title, the publishers must commit to disclosing the “peer review guidelines.” These guidelines were implemented during the process of manuscript preparation and publication.
At a recent conference of academicians and scholarly publishers, a systematic plan was chalked out to develop a framework of peer review guidelines: the initiative would resemble The Common Creatives. Technological creators would develop a systematic method for assigning credit to the systematic review of any academic paper; meta-data for each peer review process would be developed in a new system. Thus, the development, discovery, and sharing of knowledge would be very easy in the scholarly world.