Tag Archives: transparency

Please don’t “make science transparent” by publishing your reviews

Image: “Transparency”, CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/freepress

Note: This is a modestly revised version of my original post, which was not written very clearly. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony.)  It was easy, reading the original version, to think I was primarily objecting to journals publishing peer reviews.  I’m ambivalent about that (and my arguments below apply only weakly to that situation).  It should be clearer now that I’m focusing on authors publishing their peer reviews.  If you’d like to see how my writing led folks astray, I’ve archived the original version here.

We hear a lot about making science more transparent, more open – and that’s a good thing.  That doesn’t mean, though, that every way of making science more transparent should be adopted.  It’s like everything else, really: each step we could take will have benefits and costs, and we can’t ignore real impediments.  I worry that sometimes we lose sight of this.

One place I suspect we’re losing sight of it is in the movement for authors to publish their (received) peer reviews.  (There are also journals that publish peer reviews, such as Nature Communications; I think this is a lot of work with dubious return on investment, but that’s a topic for another day).   What I often see is the suggestion that whenever I publish a paper, I should post the full history of its peer reviews on Github or the equivalent. This lets readers see for themselves all that went into the making of the sausage.  It’s worth reading a good argument in favour of this, and I’ll point you to Terry McGlynn’s, which I think puts the case as well as it can be put.

I don’t agree, though.  Here’s why I won’t be posting my (received) peer reviews: Continue reading

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