Impact Challenge Day 19: Establish your expertise with Open Peer Review

Peer review is another area in academia that’s got a lot of untapped potential for demonstrating your impact.

New forms of peer review–open peer review for journals, post-publication peer review, and peer reviews written on sites like Publons–can help you establish expertise in your discipline. They turn anonymous service to your field into a standalone scholarly product, and also communicate feedback on published work to your discipline much more quickly than letters to the editor can.

Open Peer Review was borne of the idea that by making author and reviewer identities public, more civil and constructive peer reviews will be submitted, and peer reviews can be put into context.

And Open Post-publication Peer Review builds upon that by allowing anyone to publish a review of an already-published paper, whether on their blog or a standalone peer review platform like Faculty of 1000 or PubPeer. After all, why should official reviewers be the only ones allowed to share their views on a paper?

In today’s challenge, we’ll explore your options for writing Open Peer Reviews, talk about ways you can make your reviews citable and discoverable, and share tips for documenting your peer reviews on your CV.

Traditional peer review

For a very long time, publishers favored private, anonymous (‘blinded’) peer review, under the assumption that it would reduce bias and that authors would prefer for criticisms of their work to remain private. Turns out, their assumptions weren’t backed up by evidence.

It can be easy for authors to guess the identities of their reviewers (especially in small fields). And yet, a consequence of this “anonymous” legacy system is that you, as a reviewer, can’t take credit for your work.

Sure, you can say you’re a reviewer for Physical Review B, but you’re unable to point to specific reviews or discuss how your feedback made a difference. That means that others can’t read your reviews to understand your intellectual contributions to your field, which–in the case of some reviews–can be enormous.

Shades of Open Peer Review

In recent years, scientists have increasingly called for an Open alternative to traditional peer review. This has manifested in journals adopting Open Peer Review (OPR), researchers taking to their blogs to review already-published work, and the proliferation of Open and Post-publication Peer Review sites like Faculty of 1000, PubPeer, and Publons.

Each shade of OPR has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look.

Open Peer Review for journals

Here’s how Open Peer Reviews work, more or less: reviewers are assigned to a paper, and they know the author’s identity. They review the paper and sign their name. The reviews are then submitted to the editor and author (who now knows their reviewers’ identities, thanks to the signed reviews). When the paper is published, the signed reviews are published alongside it.

Journals including BMJ and PeerJ require or allow Open Peer Reviews.

Participating in journal-based OPR can be a good way to experiment with OPR as it’s officially sanctioned by the author, journal, and reviewer alike.

One drawback to this type of Open Peer Review is that journals sometimes do not provide permanent identifiers for the reviews themselves, making it difficult to track the reach and impact of your review rather than for the journal article you’ve reviewed. Luckily, PeerJ is working to change that–they’re now issuing DOIs for Open peer reviews, which comprise 40% of their reviews.

Third-party Open and Post-publication Peer Review sites

In the past few years, a number of standalone, independent peer review sites have emerged: PubPeer, Publons, and Faculty of 1000 are among the many. These sites allow you to review both published and under-review papers on their platform, and in the case of Publons, export your reviews to journals for use.

These sites also allow you to submit your reviews as Open Peer Reviews, and to create profiles showcasing your peer reviews. Some sites like Publons also issue DOIs for reviews, making them citable research objects.

Blogging as Open Post-publication Peer Review

In this type of Open Peer Review, academics take to their blogs to share their thoughts on a recently published paper or preprint. These reviews can run the gamut from highly-technical reviews oriented towards other scientists (a good example is this post on Rosie Redfield’s blog) to reviews written for a more general audience (like Mike Eisen’s post on the same study).

A major advantage to blogging your Open Peer Reviews is that you don’t have to have permission to do it; you can just fire up your blog and start reviewing. But a downside is that the review isn’t formally sanctioned by the journal, and so can carry less weight than formal reviews.

No matter what type of Open Peer Review you opt for, if it’s got your name attached to it and is available for all to read, you can use it to showcase your expertise in your area of research.

Write an Open Peer Review

If you’d prefer to go the journal-sanctioned Open Peer Review route, choose to review for journals that already offer Open Peer Review. A number of forward-thinking journals allow it (BMJ, PeerJ, and F1000 Research, among others).

To find others, use Cofactor’s excellent journal selector tool:

  • Head over to the Cofactor journal selector tool
  • Click “Peer review,”
  • Select “Fully Open,” and
  • Click “Search” to see a full list of Open Peer Review journals

Alternatively, you can write your peer review on a stand-alone post-publication peer review platform like Faculty of 1000 Prime, Publons, or others we mentioned above. Find a platform that works for you, sign up for it, and start reviewing!

And if you choose to do Open Post-publication Peer Review through your blog, just logon and start reviewin’!

Get citations and altmetrics for your peer reviews

Once your Open Peer Reviews are online, you can discover citations, shares, discussions, and bookmarks of them if they’ve got permanent identifiers that are easily trackable. The most common ID that’s used for peer reviews is a DOI.

There are two main ways you can get a DOI for your reviews:

  • Review for a journal like PeerJ or peer review platform like Publons that issues DOIs automatically

  • Archive your review in a repository that issues DOIs, like Figshare

When you’ve got your DOI, use it! Include it on your CV (more on that below), as a link when sharing your reviews with others, and so on. And encourage others to always link to your review using the DOI resolver link (these are created by putting “” in front of your DOI; here’s an example of what one looks like:

Elevate your peer reviews

Peer review may be viewed primarily as a “service” activity, but things are changing–and you can help change ‘em even more quickly. Here’s how.

As a reviewer, raise awareness by listing and linking to your journal-sanctioned reviews on your CV, adjacent to any mentions of the journals you review for. By linking to your specific reviews (using the DOI resolver link we talked about above), anyone looking at your CV can easily read the reviews themselves.

You can also illustrate for others the impacts of Open Peer Review by including citations and altmetrics for your reviews on your CV. An easy way to do that is to include on your CV a link to the review on your Impactstory profile. You can also include other quantitative measures of your reviews’ quality, like Peerage of Science’s Peerage Essay Quality scores, Publons’ merit scores, or a number of other quantitative indicators of peer-review quality. Just be sure to provide context to any numbers you include.

If you decide to do open peer reviews mostly on your blog or standalone peer review sites, you’ll likely not want to list them under Service to journals, per se, but instead perhaps under Outreach or more general Service to your field.


A big concern for early career researchers and graduate students lies in openly criticizing senior researchers in their field. What if they’re retaliated against? Anonymity would protect these ECR-reviewers from their colleagues.

Yet as Mick Watson argues, any retaliation that could theoretically occur would be considered a form of scientific misconduct, on par with plagiarism–and therefore off-limits to scientists with any sense.

We think that you’re the best judge of whether or not a peer review could have unintended consequences, and suggest that you go with your gut when deciding to make your review open or not.


Your assignment for today is to choose an article to review on your blog. If you’re new to reviewing or unsure how to go about writing a free-form peer review as a blog post, here are some guides to help you get started.

And in the future, consider doing more journal-sanctioned Open Peer Reviews.

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