Tony Ross-Hellauer, Senior Researcher (Open Science) at Know-Center, has co-authored two opinion articles that have been published in the renowned ‘Nature’ journal in recent weeks. The first, a commentary paper on creating an infrastructure to study peer review and, was even featured as the cover in February issue. The second a correspondence piece on predatory journals.


The first paper, ‘Unlock ways to share data on peer review’, is a call to build a data infrastructure to enable easy sharing of data about peer review, and journal editorial processes to enable better research into the subject. The paper is co-authored by leading peer review researchers as well as representatives of all the major publishers (Elsevier, Springer, Wiley etc).

”Peer review is the bedrock of scientific quality assurance, and its really a scandal how little we actually know about whether it actually is effective! Building such a data infrastructure would enable greater research into this heretofore neglected topic.” says Tony Ross-Hellauer, Group Leader at Open and Reproducible Research Group, at ISDS, TU Graz and Senior Researcher (Open Science) at Know-Center

In this paper, Tony Ross-Hellauer along with the other authors, argues that journals, funders and scholars must work together to create a sustainable infrastructure to make it easier for researchers to get their hands on data about peer review, in order to easily study and understand it. The article gives an overview of the kinds of systematic research that would be possible with such data-sharing. And while acknowledging the challenges of such an ambitious plan – publishers considering it risky, for example – nonetheless the authors emphasize the greater benefits to be gained on all sides. The scientific community would gain more knowledge on how best to assure the quality of scientific work (vital in the era of fake news), while publishers could optimise their processes to reduce costs and inefficiencies.

This group of researchers is currently seeking funding to make this vision a reality, with Know-Center as a central partner.

Tony Ross-Hellauer sees this as a great opportunity for one of his initiatives – Transpose (a database of journal policies for peer review and preprints) – which could be further developed and integrated as part of such an infrastructure. His group (now leading the FAIR Data Austria project) also has great competences in data sharing and creating the technical and social infrastructures to make them happen.

The second paper – ‘Defining predatory journals‘ – is a brief correspondence piece which argues that a definition of predatory journals must include their key characteristic: poor-quality peer review. The piece is in response to a recent influential definition which excluded criteria regarding peer review because closed review processes are so difficult to audit. Ross-Hellauer and co-authors argue that this just shows the way to solve predatory publishing: reforming peer review to make it more ”open” by publishing peer review reports as standard. Says Ross-Hellauer, “If we had open peer review, predatory journals would disappear overnight, as everyone would be able to see the peer review process that a scientific work had been through for themselves.


Tony Ross-Hellauer, Group Leader at Open and Reproducible Research Group, at ISDS, TU Graz and Senior Researcher (Open Science) at Know-Center