Martin Weller – a long time advocate for openness in education, demonstrating through practice rather than hype – discusses the return on peer review:
Peer-review is one of the great unseen tasks performed by academics. Most of us do some, for no particular reward, but out of a sense of duty towards the overall quality of research…Now that efficiency and return on investment are the new drivers for research, the question should be asked whether this is the best way to ‘spend’ this money? I’d suggest that if we are continuing with peer review (and its efficacy is a separate argument), then the least we should expect is that the outputs of this tax-payer funded activity should be freely available to all.
Peer review is an important lifeblood of any discipline. Unfortunately, peer review has become largely equated with closed journals. I’m stunned (really, I am) every time I reflect on the absurdity of closed journals: The public pays for research, pays for the write up of the articles, pays for peer review, and then, amazingly, turns access rights over to a for-profit entity and then pays again to gain access to what they already paid to produce. It’s like the government paying for the development of a large public park, then handing ownership over to a corporation who then charges the public to access the park. I cannot fathom how this system came into place. This model only barely works in a paper-based world when it could (weakly) be argued that costs with printing the journal justified access costs. It’s a system that places all financial burden on the academic system to produce the article and then an additional burden to access the article. All of the risk, none of the benefit.