On the future of peer review: LIBRE presentation at SpotOn London 2013

On Friday 8th of November, Open Scholar Co-founders Michael Taylor and Pandelis Perakakis gave a 5-minute talk on the future of academic peer review also presenting the forthcoming platform LIBRE at the SpotOn 2013 event. We post the transcription of the talk that summarizes our vision on the future of peer review and academic publishing in general.


Thank you Duncan. It’s nice to be here in this interesting discussion about the future of peer review so what better way to present our ideas than to share with you our own vision of the future from a researcher’s perspective.

So, I will give you four points that best describe this future

1. Academic researchers post and license their work on open access libraries immediately (like physicists have been doing for decades with arXiv).

2. Authors personally invite any expert peer they believe can help them improve their work to formally review their articles, discover weaknesses and suggest improvements.

3. Authors respond to reviews and open commentary and create improved versions of their articles, and at any moment they are free to submit to one or more journals whose job is to promote the work to the relevant audiences.

4. Academic evaluation committees, instead of looking at where authors publish will judge what they publish based on the open assessment by the community of peers.

This future didn’t just pop into our heads. It is the result of years of discussions and debate and we know it is a vision shared by many. What’s more, this future may not be that far away. In fact, most of the infrastructure is already in place. Disciplinary archives and institutional repositories managed by librarians can already publish articles immediately after a brief quality check. What is missing is a peer review overlay service. This is what LIBRE wants to offer with a free, author-guided, transparent, open and truly independent peer review process.

So, LIBRE peer review is free because no one has to pay for it.

It is author-guided because academics who perform the research are in the best position to select the most appropriate reviewers, not only because they know their field, but also because they have the strongest motivation to improve their work.

It is transparent, which means that reviews are signed so that reviewers can get properly acknowledged for their work and also so that the community can control possible conflicts of interest.

It is also open, meaning that the full text of the reviews is visible, so that the community can moderate the process by rating reviewers’ performance.

It is independent from journals or other agents because we believe that like in democracy, separation of powers, evaluation from publication, is needed to avoid abuse of power, which is exactly what has happened with some commercial publishers.

To sum up, what we want is the self-organization of peer review directly by academic researchers without any intermediaries. It is evident that this ideal can only be brought to life by an open community of volunteer researchers, following the example of open source software. This is why we founded Open Scholar as an open-membership organization where any academic can join on an equal footing. And this is why LIBRE is being developed with open source software.

So we warmly invite you to join us as we move towards the official release of LIBRE’s beta version before the end of this year.

4 thoughts on “On the future of peer review: LIBRE presentation at SpotOn London 2013

  1. Regarding the author-guided review approach, I could imagine that some authors might feel encouraged to omit inviting otherwise qualified reviewers that might be particularly critical of their research due to competing interests. Can reviewers that have not been explicitly invited still review papers at the same time?
    On the other hand, I suppose the open and identified nature of the reviews will discourage such reviewers in a competing position from being unreasonably critital.
    Will you encourage or somehow try to force reviewers to disclose any possible conflicts of interest?

    • Thanks Thomas for these important questions. Any registered user can suggest a reviewer, including themselves. Authors who reject a reviewer should provide an explanation. Reviewers will be “forced” to fill in any possible conflict of interest that will be visible along with the review. We hope that authors will also try to invite “competitors” as a positive review by them will have a significant weight on the overall assessment of the work.

  2. “the official release of LIBRE’s beta version before the end of this year [2013].”

    So … what’s up? Are you still planning to launch LIBRE? Any updated prediction on when?

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