Why and how to separate scholarly evaluation from academic journals. | Open Scholar C.I.C.
" ... many alternative peer review models have been proposed, but they all assume that “peer review has to remain under the control of academic journals”. Perhaps the time has come to challenge this assumption. No one would deny that what scientists do best is challenge world views and investigate viable alternatives. This, after all, is what has driven knowledge forward through feudal times and the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment. The LIBRE (LIBerating REsearch) Project developed by Open Scholar C.I.C. —a not-for-profit organisation supported by a growing, open community— is one such alternative. LIBRE challenges the fundamental assumption that peer review can only be arranged and handled by journal editors. It is a free, multi-disciplinary platform that allows academic authors to invite expert peers to formally review their work. Full-text reviews are linked to the original manuscripts and the identities of both the authors and the reviewer are disclosed from the beginning of the review process. This open and transparent procedure permits direct communication and collaboration between authors and reviewers during all stages of the review. Reviewers help authors improve their manuscripts and receive recognition for their contribution as their reports are licensed and receive their own digital object identifier (DOI) to become citable items. In a further iteration, reviews themselves are also openly evaluated by other academics, providing incentives for thorough and helpful critiques, and protecting the system from potential sources of bias. LIBRE can be thought of as an innovative experiment designed to test whether or not the academic community is ready to adopt a direct, open, independent and transparent evaluation scheme to certify the fruits of its own labour. By entrusting the handling of peer review to authors themselves, LIBRE eliminates all costs related to the research evaluation process setting it free of financial firewalls. It is our hope that the LIBRE project will encourage the spawning of other similar platforms and “green” open access repositories embracing our author-guided peer review model. Academic journals can then concentrate on the important role of soliciting and selecting verified and high quality open access scientific articles and disseminating them to specific audiences and communities. The online platform, which will be officially launched in October 2013, was developed with the help of research grants and its maintenance depends on a great deal of voluntary work by dedicated members and minimum funding for technical support and promotion expenses. Consistent with Open Scholar’s asset lock, all further funding from foundations, grants or donations will be directly invested in the continued development and promotion of the project. The ultimate success of LIBRE depends on the preparedness of our academic community to embrace a new culture of open, transparent and independent research evaluation in order to break itself free from commercial interests unrelated to the true pursuit of knowledge."