A man preparing an open peer review work.

Introducing Open Peer Review to the Journal Life

Open peer review is coming! We believe that research belongs to the academic community. This means that the community should judge what should and should not be published. Typically, for a particular submitted manuscript this process is delegated to a small number of volunteer peer reviewers.

Until now, the editors of journals and publishers have been the guardians of peer review, selecting impartial scholars with a suitable background. Recently, however, many editors and publishers have been subject to criticism that they are not taking their responsibilities seriously. This is a difficult charge to counter, as the process is highly confidential.

Open Peer Review for Life

We pride ourselves in the rigor of our peer review, and have decided to take the bold step of opening up the process: Starting with the journal Life (ISSN 2075-1729), peer review comments and author responses will be published alongside the final article. We will give reviewers the option to identify themselves (referees can optionally sign their review reports) if they wish. However their identity will not be known to the authors until a paper is accepted and finally published. For the initial phase, authors will be offered the choice of whether this information is published. But we soon intend to apply this system to all articles published in Life. After that, we will extend this to other journals in the near future.

The first paper with peer review reports openly published is a review by the Nobel Laureate Werner Arber, offering his views on horizontal gene transfer in bacteria. We are pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate that papers from authors of such high standing undergo the same rigorous process as any other.

We believe that this step will be warmly welcomed by the scientific community. Additionally, we wish to thank the Editor-in-Chief of Life, Pabulo Rampelotto, for his support, enthusiasm, and input into this process. You can read his accompanying editorial here. By offering open peer review, we are putting ourselves at the forefront of democratic and accountable scientific publishing. And we look forward to expanding this measure across our portfolio of journals.