What are we going to call PLOS ONE-style peer-review?
April 24, 2015
When a paper goes for peer-review at PLOS ONE, the reviewers are told not to make any judgement about how important or sexy or “impacty” the paper is — to judge it only on methodical soundness. All papers that are judged sound are to be published without making guesses about which will and won’t improve the journal’s reputation through being influential down the line. (Such guesses are hopelessly inaccurate anyway.)
When PLOS ONE was new, this approach drew scorn from established publishers, but now those publishers all have their own journals that use similar editorial criteria (Nature’s Scientific Reports, AAAS‘s Science Advances, Elsevier’s first attempt, Elsevier’s second attempt, the Royal Society’s Royal Society Open Science). Those editorial criteria have proved their worth.
But what are we going to call this style of peer-review?
It’s not a new problem. I discussed it with with David Crotty three years ago without reaching any very satisfactory conclusion. But three years have not really helped us much as we try to agree on a term for this increasingly important and prevalent model.
What are the options on the table?
PLOS ONE-style peer-review. It’s a cumbersome term, and it privileges PLOS ONE when that is now far from the only journal to use this approach to peer-review (and may not even have been first).
Peer-review Lite. A snide term coined by people who wanted PLOS ONE to fail. It’s not a good description, and it carries baggage.
Scientific peer-review. This one came up in the discussion with David Crotty, but it’s not really acceptable because it would leave us still needing a term for what the Open Library of Humanities does.
Objective peer-review. This is the term that was used at the Royal Society meeting at the start of this week — the idea being that you review objectively for the quality of the research, but don’t make a subjective judgement of its importance. Several people didn’t like this on the grounds that even the “objective” half is inevitably subjective.
Any others that I missed?
I don’t have a good solution to propose to this problem; but I think it’s getting more urgent that we do solve it. We have to have a simple, unambiguous, universally understood term to understand a model of peer-review that is becoming increasingly pervasive and may well end up as the dominant form of peer-review.
Plough in — comments are open!
Liz Wager asked a very similar question four years ago, over on the BMJ blog: what to call the journals that use this approach to peer-review. Terms that she mentions include:
- “bias to publish” (from BioMed Central)
- “non-selective” (her own coinage, which she doesn’t like)
- “bumboat” (I can’t explain this one, you’ll have to read the article)
- “author-driver” or “author-focused” publication (AFP for short)
- “search-located” (which she coins, the dismisses as tautologous)
- “unconventional” or “non-traditional” (discarded as disparaging)
- “non-discriminatory”, “impartial” or “unprejudiced”
- “general” (dismissed as a non-starter)
- “broad-spectrum” (inapplicable to specialised journals)
And then in the comments various people proposed:
- “below the fold” journals
- “omnivorous” (I quite like that one)
- “Voldermortian journals”, which I don’t understand at all.
- “Unfiltered”, contrasted with “filtered”
- “inclusive”, contrasted with “exclusive” (I quite like this, too)
- “high volume low hassle”
But there’s no conclusion or preferred term.