‘Credit for peer review’ movement scales up

Acquisition of Publons by Clarivate Analytics sets the scene for major expansion

June 1, 2017
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Give it a whirl: Publons gives academics an incentive to do more peer reviews

An online platform that allows academics to record and receive credit for their peer review activity is set for major expansion after it was taken over by a leading research information company.

Publons has built up a community of more than 150,000 peer reviewers and agreed partnerships with eight of the 10 biggest global publishers since it was set up in New Zealand in 2013. It allows researchers to post profiles of their peer review history, enabling them to use it as an indicator of their expertise and contribution to their field.

The service provides an incentive for academics to conduct more peer reviews, and to do them more thoroughly, it is hoped, while also making it easier for editors to find the best reviewers more swiftly.

On 1 June it was announced that Publons had been acquired by Clarivate Analytics, which runs the Web of Science citation database and was formerly the intellectual property and science arm of Thomson Reuters.

Andrew Preston, Publons’ co-founder, said that the deal would allow his product “to have an even greater impact on peer review”.

The deal is likely to allow Publons to expand its membership further, while also allowing Clarivate to develop tools that assess the quality of research based not only on the citation records held in Web of Science but also on the peer review data collated by Publons.

“This allows Publons to increase the scale at which it can open up the world of peer review and addresses some of the challenges [in scientific research] around fraud and the lack of reproducibility with better and more transparent peer review,” said Jessica Turner, Clarivate’s global head of scientific and academic research. “In efficiency, [this allows editors to] find better and more qualified reviewers, and it gives researchers credit for the peer review activity they do.”

Publons allows researchers to display varying levels of detail about each review that they have conducted, subject to the journal’s policy, including the journal name, article title or even the full text of the review. It is free to academics.

Reviewers are incentivised to log their activity by “merits” and rewards such as software licences and access to online services.

Elsevier, one of the world’s biggest journal publishers, also runs a reviewer recognition platform, which allows researchers to document their peer review history for the company’s titles and, since 2015, other periodicals as well.


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