The journal Nature is not the usual outlet for organization studies scholars. Nevertheless, Maximilian Heimstädt, Katja Mayer, Tony Ross-Hellauer and myself submitted a short piece to Nature’s “Correspondence” section in response to an article trying to define predatory journals. 35 Authors led by Agnes Grudniewicz had developed such a definition but suggested leaving quality of peer review out of it:
Most controversially, we omitted quality of peer review, even though negligent peer review is often a prominent feature of predatory journals. We are not saying that peer review is unimportant, only that it is currently impossible to assess.
In our response, we argue that there is no point in any definition of predatory journals that leaves peer review quality out:
If misuse of the peer-review label is not included in the definition of predatory journals, it could strengthen rather than weaken them. Formal listings of those journals might shrink under such a definition: many journals would be removed because their questionable peer-review procedures have escaped scrutiny and they seem otherwise respectable. They could then become attractive outlets to potential authors.
The background for our response piece is research on open peer review that Maximilian Heimstädt and I have been pursuing for some time now. It all began with a blog post, in which we discussed whether open peer review could help against the rising problem of predatory publishing. Adding empirical data on predatory publishing in management journals, the idea ended up being published in Management Learning. The key point of the article “Predatory publishing in management research: A call for open peer review” is this:
By making parts of their peer review process more transparent and inclusive, reputable journals can differentiate themselves from predatory journals and additionally contribute to a more developmental reviewing culture.
Hopefully, our response contributes to making open peer review much more common. Some Nature journals are already leading the way and have begun publishing reviews of their articles. This decision is backed up by research on review quality and decision-making in journals that had experimented with open peer review. In Nature Communications, Bravo and others investigated the effect of publishing peer review reports on referee behavior in five scholarly journals. They found that “that open peer review does not compromise the process, at least when referees are able to protect their anonymity”.
[Update, April 2, 2020] Today a brief video on the issue of predatory publishing and open peer review as a potential antidote has been published by the University of Innsbruck in both an English and a German version.