Peer review at OA journals

Uwe Thomas Müller, Peer-Review-Verfahren zur Qualitätssicherung von Open-Access-Zeitschriften – systematische Klassifikation und empirische Untersuchung, a doctoral dissertation at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, January 22, 2009.  (Thanks to David Solomon.)  In German but with this English-language abstract:

The present work broadly discusses the problem of quality assurance in the field of scholarly publishing. It highlights the specific characteristics resulting from electronic publishing, business models based on Open Access, and particularly Open Access Journals. Out of the different approaches for quality assessment and its fundamental purpose – filtering relevant and audited information – mainly peer review processes are examined in detail. In this context weak points and basic criticisms on peer review are enumerated and subsequently discussed with respect to known studies in this field. As a major part the present work contains a classification of peer review processes regarding different properties and its potential values. Although it has been subject to fundamental criticism for decades peer review is still widely considered to be the method of choice for pre-publication quality assurance in scholarly publishing. Meanwhile, open access journals which increasingly appear within the scholarly publication market regularly raise suspicion to follow lower quality standards and to publish articles which have passed no or less rigorous editorial examination. Against this background the present work presents a comprehensive survey which aims at analyzing peer review processes of scholarly open access journals. Using the data provided by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) more than 3.000 editors have been asked to participate. With an overall return rate of about 40 % the resulting findings can be considered as highly representative. They clearly show that most open access journals actually apply peer review processes. Moreover, the analysis indicates that there exists a broad variety of different procedures and characteristics constituting peer review, including reciprocal anonymity between authors and reviewers, information flow, the reviewer selection process, and formal settlements as for conflicts of interest. Thereby, the nature of the applied peer review process strongly depends on the scholarly discipline of the respective journal and its publisher. In addition, correlations between external quality indicators and peer review properties could be observed.