Peer Review and Open Access

Peer review is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. In another class I’m in right now, Foundations in LIS with Nadia Caidi, we all had to do a project on a current issue in Library and Information Science and present to the class. My group presented on Open Access publishing.

If you don’t aware, Open Access is a movement with it’s foundations in the idea that the world is a better place when current research is available to the public freely (without a monetary barrier, also known as toll access). Most Open Access resources are available one of two ways: either through institutional/subject based repositories or through Open Access journals.

Open Access journals face barriers to becoming recognized as legitimate. One of the primary reasons for this barrier is because they are perceived as having a lax peer review process and consequently the perception is that they easier to publish in. This stereotype is not totally without a basis in reality.

Much like the Sokal case, there was a recent case where a biologist named John Bohannon submitted a fake science paper to several  Open Access journals. His experiment was flawed, most of all because he did not submit to any toll access journals. However, the fact remains that his paper was accepted at 70% of the journals that supposedly put it through the peer review process (about 40% of the journals overall). This is unacceptable. However, as Camille pointed out in her blog post with regard to the Sokal affair, I don’t think it is useful to go about embarrassing/shaming people… those involved in the peer review process had no reason to believe that they were being tricked. As well, Bohannon is well regarded in his field, and depending on whether or not the journal in question was using the double blind method this likely had an additional impact. However, unfortunately, I am sure that in some of these cases the article was accepted due to negligence, or a case of predatory open access journals– but that is another issue entirely.





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3 responses to “Peer Review and Open Access

  1. annastandish

    In my Foundations class (I’m in the morning section) my group presented on Open Access too!

    One thing I found that’s muddying a lot of waters out there is a confusion between Green and Gold models of Open Access. Peer review is only directly relevant to Gold OA, but then people talk fearfully of the movement as if there were no distinction, or as if journals that don’t charge subscription fees couldn’t possibly afford to conduct a proper peer review process – as if peer reviewers were ever paid for their efforts in traditional publishing models!

    I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Bohannon’s “sting” operation, my first thoughts were, well *of course* unscrupulous OA publishers abound. OA, like any “trendy” movement (like “Organic” and “Green”) is going to suffer quite a few con artists looking to make a quick buck on scholars who are either ignorant, or unscrupulous & eager for an easy publishing credit.

  2. Liz

    I think open access is great. It provides opportunities to both researchers and readers to disseminate and absorb knowledge freely without financial constraints, which can also narrow the knowledge gap between rich and poor. I believe open access articles can maintain high academic quality by having proper peer-review mechanism in place.

    Thank you.


  3. Hey, I’m so glad that others actually know what Open Access is!
    Before my presentation, I was aware of it, but I didn’t know about any of the controversy it has started.
    Like you, Anna, after reading about the Bohannon case, it struck me as obvious that some people were going to have take advantage of the situation. However, I really hope that Open Access isn’t really just a trend, since I agree with Liz that I think Open Access is a pretty great idea. If journals can figure out other way to fund themselves, instead of charging for articles, I believe that ultimately the world is a better place. I would have been curious to see what the results would be if he had submitted the same article to peer reviewed toll-access journals. Part of me hopes that the peer-review process would have caught the fake article, but the other part of me hopes that the process didn’t catch the article, thus revealing a fundamental flaw in the process as a whole.


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