Two Years into Making Reviewers Relevant

reviewer rating, impact pointsTwo years ago a group of researchers set out to create a platform to give reviewers credit for the countless hours of peer review that they put in. We decided to look into Publons and speak to the founders about their journey so far and how they have managed to change the academic research and publication landscape.

Although the name Publons was borrowed from a nerdy physics joke about the publishing industry, the startup has proved it is not joke and has to be taken seriously. With close to 1000 reviews being added every week and more than 7000 journals on their platform (28 of which have partnered with them), the founders are well on their way to give reviewers something to feel proud about for the countless hours they spend in reviewing papers. By giving digital object identification (DOI) numbers to these reviews, the founders are making reviews into citable publications on their own.

Accelerating the Academic Publications Process

Publons is fulfilling it aim of speeding up science publication by increasing incentives for reviewers to respond to review requests quickly and offer more constructive feedback, which is also available for everyone to see. The authors can decide the merit points (similar to impact points) the reviewer gets, by up-voting their reviews. This way they are also bringing transparency to the journal peer review process by showcasing under open access important scientific reviews that would otherwise be ignored. 

Below are excerpts from a conversation with the co-founder of Publons, Andrew Preston.

Q: How has the response from Reviewers and Authors been?

A: It has been really positive. I think this is because while everyone recognises that peer review is a critical part of science, reviewers as a group have largely been overlooked by publishers and academia. We’re shining a light on that process and I think everyone recognises that’s a good idea.

A good example of the positive response is the group of Publons advisors that advocate on our behalf advisors.

Q: Have the impact factors of Reviewers helped them in gaining grants or in any other way?

A: It seems that reviewers using their Publons records as evidence on grant applications and performance reviews. I think this is for two reasons: 1. We verify the review, so it’s a more formal record; and 2. We provide a downloadable record that can be attached to your resume.

This system helps to turn peer review into a measurable research output, which is what funders are looking for.

Reviews, Journals

Q: Whats next for Publons?

A: Two things:

1. We’ve started to integrate with a number of different journals to automate the process of adding reviews to your Publons profile. See this Wiley announcement for example. The full list of integrated journals is here.

You’ll start to see a lot more appear in the near future.

2. We’ve started to release some interesting stats about reviews so you can really take a look at how your reviews compare to everyone else. Here’s a good example.

Those two things are our focus in the immediate future.

These are apart from their other useful features for editors such as:

1. Search for and contact reviewers; and

2. Screen author-provided reviewer suggestions to ensure they are legitimate and suitable peer reviewers.

You can signup on Publons here and upload informative reviews you might have on your papers.

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