Peer Review - reviewed: Birgit Schmidt, OpenUP project


We are joined by Dr. Birgit Schmidt who is the scientific coordinator of the OpenUP project. In this Peer Review – reviewed series, we find out what peer review means to the OpenUP project and how this EU-funded project is working to improve peer review for all.

Could you tell us more about the OpenUP project?

OpenUP investigates the disseminate-review-assess stages of scholarly communication. Based on new technologies and media we can observe substantial changes in how stakeholders interact with each other. Alongside these enhanced research and communication workflows, new ways of collaboration and sharing of interim and final research results have emerged. Through the project activities, productive relationships have developed with our partner organizations (KNOW center, CNR, Frontiers), and we are also actively seeking out the possibilities for cooperation with other EU projects and initiatives. A best example of such correlated work is the organization of Open Science Fair, taking place in Athens on 6-8 September 2017, where four EU projects – OpenAIRE, OpenUP, FOSTER and openMINTED – are working together to set up a forum around the elements required for the transition to Open Science. Such events help to engage with our stakeholders and through their feedback we can increase the scope and level of the take up of open science practices.”

What does peer review mean to you?
“Peer review assists researchers in improving the quality and consistency of their presentation of research results; it typically also endorses what is considered “sound research”. Reviewers provide feedback on the research design, the steps taken to achieve a certain results and how well these results are presented. Some alternative review methods, such as collaborative review or post publication peer review, ensure a close cooperation of all stakeholders involved in the publishing process, and provide a more productive way to improve the quality of scientific outputs which is basically the ultimate purpose of peer review.”

Who is involved with the OpenUP project currently? And what have you achieved so far?
OpenUP brings together nine partners from seven countries, from research, libraries and the publishing industry. Since the project started about one year ago, we have investigated the state of the art and researchers’ perceptions on innovative methods and tools, e.g. for conducting open peer review and disseminating research findings. In the next phase of the project we are conducting several pilot studies in different fields of study with the primary purpose of validating the results of the landscape scans of alternative review, dissemination and impact measurement methods. However, our work has so far involved not only desk research, but also an active participation in the research arena, building relationships with researchers, publishers and decision-makers in order to develop and strengthen the open science network in Europe.”

There has been a lot of discussion recently about alternatives to the traditional peer review process. What do you think a future peer review process should look like?

“Peer review should cover all stages of the research process, from the design and pre-registration of a study, the collection and processing of research data, as well as the publication of research outcomes. Alongside this process, researchers should be supported by infrastructure and tools which support collaboration and communication processes, and allow to archive and share elements within individuals, research groups or the wider community. Many of the tools are certainly there but have not been plugged together yet. One aspect of our work in OpenUP is to map out these alternative review tools and provide information about them to wider research communities, and the other aspect is to advance their sustainable presence in the scholarly publishing field by informing institutional decision and policy makers about their benefits and possible incorporation into current publishing processes. And of course when taking up such practices, there is room for discussion on what needs improvement. In this respect, the experiment which will be set up by OpenUP will provide excellent learning opportunities.”

What are you doing this year to address key challenges of the current peer review process?
“Based on past experiences and current perceptions on open peer review, OpenUP will develop guidance on available methods and tools, as well as good conduct of reviewers and authors in such settings.”

How can people get involved with the OpenUP project?
“OpenUP is very much interested in making good practices better known, to junior and established researchers as well as other stakeholders. We are currently developing a toolbox of materials in order to facilitate the uptake and to train on the application of innovative methods and tools. This training will also be promoted through FOSTER, the EU-co-funded e-learning platform for Open Science. Please get in touch if you would like to share your experiences or point us to interesting initiatives.”

And what does peer review mean to you? Become a guest writer on our Peer Review – reviewed series and share your peer review views with the wider microbiology community. Please email us if you are interested.

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