Three academics are to launch a new open-access platform that they hope will allow researchers to wrest control of peer review from journals and remove academic publishers’ justification for charging high prices for their titles.
The Libre platform, due to be launched in October, will host open reviews of manuscripts solicited by the authors themselves. The authors will also be encouraged to continually update their manuscripts in the light of the ongoing comments.
Pandelis Perakakis, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Castellón in Spain and co-founder of Open Scholar, the UK-registered non-profit company that will run Libre, said that journals used their present “monopoly” on administering peer review to justify excessively high prices – even though the current model of peer review was flawed by conflicts of interest.
Dr Perakakis did not want to see journals swept away, and he acknowledged that the pressure on academics to publish in high-status journals made it unrealistic to ask them to commit exclusively to Libre.
But instead of being the “gatekeepers of quality”, journals’ role should be “to detect the most interesting articles and combine them in meaningful collections for specific audiences” – at a much reduced cost.
He hoped that reviewers would be persuaded to submit open reviews not only by the lure of “doing the ethical thing” but also by the prospect of building up a public reputation as reviewers.
Reviews will be citable and readers will be able to rate them. The Libre platform will also present various metrics about article usage.
The idea for Libre was first set out in the 2010 Scientometrics paper “Natural selection of academic papers” co-authored by Dr Perakakis and the other two founders of Open Scholar.
The trio could have published “20 papers each” in the time it had taken to set up Libre, Dr Perakakis said. “But we decided this is a lot more important to do,” he added.
He did not know how many reviewers or authors would come forward but said that there had been broad interest, including from potential grant funders.
“We have put a lot of soul overall into this, but even if it fails at least we will know if certain disciplines or countries were more willing to adopt a more open and ethical evaluation model, which should help explain others’ resistance,” he said.