It seems that every second blog post written, talk given, or tweet tweeted on the topics of science and research nowadays is in one way or other concerned with the shortcomings of the established peer review process and the ways in which one could evaluate papers more openly and transparently. For now, the discussions usually get stuck at the crossroads between needing to publish in high impact publications and the fact that these are more often than not rather “old-fashioned” when it comes to their peer review practices. But isn’t it in our hands, as scientists, to change this?
Admittedly, the reviews we get are anonymous and often not full of praise to put it mildly – yet that shouldn’t stop a researcher from wanting to share the review with others, provided there is an easy technical solution for doing that. If you think about it, if the review is very (un-)helpful, it’s in everyone’s interest to share it for the sake of exhibiting how (bad) the reviewers of a particular publication are. If the review reflects really well on the submitted paper, then there seems to be a natural impetus for the scientist to share it. And even if the review is very critical of the paper (in which case scientists tend to switch into full-on denial mode), it’s still in your interest to share the review and collect more opinions on the paper in order to understand if there is really a flaw in it, or if the reviewer was just being unprofessionally picky for some reason.
Going somewhat in this direction RePEc have recently issued a call to editors to submit the reviews that were written by the referees of their journals for open display. Even if the idea is very much biased towards whatever the editors deem as appropriate for showcasing, I applaud the effort. However, the scientists themselves should be also more proactive in this area and just publish the reviews that they obtain!
PS. There might be a slight legal caveat to this idea, so I asked an organizer of an event if he would see a problem in me publishing the reviews I got on submitting for presentation. The answer I got was that while it’s something they probably can’t do anything about legally, the reviewers might get “annoyed if what they wrote appeared on the Internet unexpectedly”. Well (especially considering that this would still be done anonymously) I don’t see a reason why they should be, unless they’re ashamed about what they wrote.