As promised, I publish here a recent correspondence between Angel Correa, a colleague at the Brain, Mind & Behaviour Research Center of the University of Granada, and the editor of an Elsevier journal. I do not wish to express my opinion here —although the title and image of this post may be giving a hint— nor to reveal the identity of the editor. I prefer to listen to what my fellow colleagues think about which are the obligations and responsibilities of authors and journal editors in the emerging landscape of open scholarly communication.
First Dr. Correa received a typical review invitation by the journal editor, to which he replied:
Dear Dr. …,
I am happy to commit myself to write a professional signed review of this article on the following premise:
If the reviewed paper is accepted, my review will be published in the same issue as a “commentary” or something similar, in open access, free.
The reason is that, as a civil servant, I have decided not to use my working time to work selflessly for journals supported by private editorial companies.
Please let me know if your journal could warrant so. Thank you.
The editor’s reply was:
Dear Dr correa,
I regret your decision not to take part of the scientific process any longer.
And after a few minutes, in a second email the editor added:
my opinion is that as a civil servant, it is our job to provide peer assessment, not only because our institution pays us to do so, also because the scientific community is organised in this way (you also expect your papers to be reviewed by peers). I am not sure that your institution would agree on your point of view.
I respect your decision, but we do not publish review reports.
A little later Angel sent the following request:
Thank you for your respect and your honest message, which have made me think further on this complex issue.
I believe that my commitment to open science will yet remain if I keep the rights as author to publish my review for [journal name] by myself, in open access, in the event that the manuscript was published.
Please let me know if your journal will allow to keep my rights as author of my review.
The editor never replied to this email.
5 thoughts on “Which side are you on boys?”
Reviewers own the copyright of their review reports. Rarely, if ever, is there transfer of copyright for a review report. Many journals, however, request as part of the contract of peer review, that the reports remain confidential. Thus, publishing such reports may be a breach of contract, but not a copyright issue.
Thank you for the comment. It seems that Elsevier journals have a specific policy against permitting reviewers publishing their reviews. See: http://www.nature.com/news/you-never-said-my-peer-review-was-confidential-scientist-challenges-publisher-1.21342
COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) also contemplates this in its guidelines (see: http://publicationethics.org/files/Peer%20review%20guidelines_0.pdf ):
I think this needs to change on a formal level. This policy only benefits journals. Their most important added value is peer review and exposing its quality would enable comparisons based on the true service they offer and not on the fallacious citation-based prestige.
Peer review is sole intellectual property of its author. The journal has no copyright or any other legal leverage, when the peer review of a published paper is published.
In this regard, it is irrelevant what COPE, which is a purely publisher-run organisation, serving publisher interests, has to say.
Somehow journals find neither my ethics nor my policies binding on them. I do not see why we should think their policies are binding on us. Peer review is part of the *scientific* process. If we instead view it as part of the *publication* process, we all lose.
Couldn’t agree more with you Richard!