One of the first megajournals, PLOS ONE, has played a significant role in changing scholarly communication and in particular peer review, by placing an emphasis on soundness, as opposed to novelty, in published research. Drawing on a study of peer review reports from PLOS ONE recently published as an open-access book, Martin Paul Eve, Daniel Paul O’Donnell, Cameron Neylon, Sam Moore, Robert Gadie, Victoria Odeniyi, and Shahina Parvin¸ assess PLOS ONE’s impact on the culture of peer review and what it can tell us about efforts to change academic culture more broadly.
Most scholars are familiar with peer review; the sometimes brutal system by which academic work is judged. The COVID-19 pandemic has even mainstreamed this process, with media outlets commenting on unreviewed preprints with warnings that work has “not yet undergone peer review”. Yet few venues, over the past two decades, have done more to challenge the way that peer review works than the Public Library of Science’s PLOS ONE title.
This interesting piece published by the London School of Economics Impact Blog reflects on an analysis of the form of peer review reports at PLOS One. A great insight into their analysis.
As this change represented a fundamental shift in a core research practice, we wanted to understand how peer reviewers behave at PLOS ONE, and were generously given access to an anonymised set of peer review reports from the journal. What did we find? In purely quantitative terms, the mean length of reviews was 3,081 characters, while the longest report we found was just under 14,000 words(!)