Introduction

Welcome to Palgrave Macmillan’s trial of open peer review for scholarly books.

Open peer review can refer to any model which increases transparency in the peer review process.  We’ve placed selected book proposals and associated sample chapters on this publicly-accessible website and are inviting comment from anyone who feels they can contribute to the development of these works.

Why experiment with open peer review?

Peer review is at the heart of academic publishing.  However, ‘traditional’ single- or double-blind peer review, while effective in many ways, has limitations.

We think that there may be benefits to a peer review process which requires greater accountability from reviewers, offers the possibility of additional perspectives, and has a greater focus on developing works and encouraging debate.

Forms of open and interactive peer review are now widely used in science publishing, but are still rare in the humanities and the social sciences.  This will be the first trial to invite open comment on and review of scholarly book proposals, and the first to investigate how open peer review can contribute to the development of scholarly books at such an early stage in the writing process.

Selecting works for this trial

We’ve focused on three disciplines: culture and media, sociology, and economics.  Within these areas, Palgrave Macmillan’s editors have selected proposals on a number of grounds: we have prioritised interdisciplinary work, work with policy implications, and work which is itself concerned with digital behaviours and communication, since we felt these topics might benefit most from exposure to a wide range of perspectives, and would be conducive to discussion in this kind of forum.

All works chosen for the trial have already been through our usual single-blind peer review process and have been accepted and contracted for publication.  Where the reviewers have agreed, we’ve posted the original reviews alongside the proposals and sample chapters, to provide some context and also as a catalyst for discussion.  We would emphasise that we are fully committed to publishing all works included in the trial: we have confidence in the quality of the books proposed, and intend that the focus be on enhancing them further.

Join the debate

We see this trial as an opportunity to learn about what sort of feedback is possible and useful in this context and to contribute to the academic community’s understanding of open peer review.  We don’t have a specific end in mind – this is a trial rather than a pilot – but the trial will certainly inform Palgrave Macmillan’s thinking about peer review.

If you’re interested in participating as a reviewer, we’d advise you start with our reviewer guidelines.  We’d also love to hear your thoughts on the trial itself and open peer review more generally: you can join in the debate via the comment box below, or on Twitter using the hashtag #openpeerreview.

For information on previous trials and current uses of open peer review, see our selected bibliography.

8 comments

  1. An interesting and potentially valuable concept helping to focus future publications but I’m left wondering in this instance if it’s genuinely “open reviewing” rather than early advertising….? Fair enough that each proposal has already been blind reviewed and one that I might have commented upon would certainly have received overall support in my review, but given that this open review process is ongoing until March and the cited deadline for completion on the publication in question is July that gives 3 months for authors to re-jig in the light of any comments… That’s unrealistic or at most a minor tweak. “Open reviewing” surely needs to be between blind reviewing and contract stages so that any comments and suggestions can be discussed/investigated/accommodated…?

    1. Hi Barry,

      We did consider doing open review pre-contract, but felt few authors would consent to public comment without guarantees from us; I do take your point, though – it would be interesting to try it earlier.

      The date in July you refer to is suggested by the author, and was set before these works were selected for the open peer review trial.

      If, in light of an open review comment, the authors and Palgrave editor felt a book would benefit from significant revision or addition, we would consider a revised timetable for publication, so there is certainly the opportunity for comments to have a substantial influence on the final work.

      Ros Pyne
      Senior Digital Development Editor, Palgrave Macmillan

  2. Hi Ros

    Thanks for your response. Some notes below.

    Re “felt few authors would consent to public comment without guarantees from us.”
    I can see that might be true of well-established authors with a fine track record (though you might not feel the need to subject them to this process anyway), whereas new or less experienced authors would be unlikely to withhold consent and might be persuaded that this is a helpful (and standard) process. I think a more worrying aspect might be that in submitting a proposal authors may reveal in detail novel approaches/thoughts that could be poached if described in full at this “open reviewing” stage (solution elaborated below).

    Re: “date…. was set before these works were selected for the open peer review trial.” After the blind review and prior to this process of “open reviewing” could copy be checked and tweaked to avoid this type of misunderstanding? That would also be my solution to the possibility of “poaching” noted above, that the author be permitted to tweak/gloss any ideas that s/he thinks are novel/unique and wouldn’t want to reveal in full at this stage.

    Re your 3rd paragraph. I think that’s useful information that could be openly stated in the introduction to “open reviewing”.

    Hope some of that useful. b.

  3. I discovered this trial too late to contribute, but I’m very interested to know what it reveals about the potential for open reviewing at various stages of the publication process. As far as Barry’s mention of ‘poaching’ goes, I guess the potential for that kind of appropriation of ideas has to be balanced against the potential for garnering useful input from a broader research community that could help develop those ideas before they go to press. And surely any actual plagiarism could be tracked back to the trial, so could be detected as easily as plagiarism from completed publications can be.

    1. Hi Dan,

      We’re currently following up with all the authors involved and one of the questions we’re asking is whether this was a good time in the researching/writing process for open review, or if it would have been more helpful at another point. We’re also asking how they felt about exposing their work prior to publication. We’ll report back once we’ve finished the analysis.

      Ros

      Ros Pyne
      Senior Digital Development Editor, Palgrave Macmillan

  4. I think this is a great idea and really welcome the experiment. I’m interested to know if there were any manuscripts that received no comments during the trial, and if so how you plan to deal with this?

    It’s also interesting to see that the manuscripts posted have all been blind peer reviewed before posting – 1. why, and 2. assuming these initial reviews were positive, would a bad review on here make the Publishers query whether to publish the book?

    I will continue to follow with interest!

    1. Hi Kim,

      Thanks for the feedback! Yes, there were a few proposals which didn’t receive any comments during the trial – we’ll report in full at some point. Since all the proposals have already been blind reviewed, we don’t plan to take any further action about this.

      As for why we chose to do this after single-blind review: given that open review is so new it wouldn’t have been feasible to offer just this and not ‘traditional’ review. We could have run the two review processes concurrently, but we liked that doing them consecutively meant we could focus the open review on helping the authors to develop their books rather than on Palgrave’s making decisions.

      All the titles in the trial had already been contracted before the trial started, and a negative review at the open review stage would not have changed our decision – though had that happened our editors would have discussed with the authors whether revisions were appropriate.

      Ros

      Ros Pyne
      Senior Digital Development Editor, Palgrave Macmillan

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