Open Source, Open Research and Open Review
The submissions for Open Research Computation (which I blogged about a month or so back) are starting to come in and we hope to be moving towards getting those initial papers out soon. One of the things we want the journal to do is bring more of the transparency and open critique that characterises the best Open Source Software development processes into the scholarly peer review process. The journal will have an open review process in which reviews and the versions of the manuscript they refer to will be available.
One paper’s authors however have taken matters into their own hands and thrown the doors completely open. With agreement from the editorial board Michael Barton and Hazel Barton have asked the community on the BioStar site, a bioinformatics focussed member of the StackExchange family of Q&A websites, how the paper and software could be improved. They have published a preprint of the paper and the source code was obviously already available on Github. You can see more at Michael’s blog post. We will run a conventional peer review process in parallel and the final decision on whether the paper is ready to publish will rest with the ORC editors but we will take into account the comments on BioStar and of course the authors will be free to use those comments to improve on their software and documentation.
This kind of approach goes a long way towards dealing with the criticisms I often level at conventional peer review processes. By making the process open there is the opportunity for any interested party to offer constructive critique and help to improve the code and the paper. By not restricting commentary to a small number of people we stand a better chance of getting all the appropriate points of view represented. And by (hopefully, we may have some niggling licence issues with copying content from BioStar’s CC-BY-SA to BioMedCentral’s CC-BY) presenting all of that commentary and critique along with the authors responses we can offer a clear view of how effective the review process was and what the final decisions were based on. I’ve talked about what we can do to improve peer review. Michael and Hazel have taken action to make it happen. You can be a part of it.