PLoS Innovations in Peer Review

Mark Patterson
Director of Publishing, Public Library of Science, European Office, Cambridge, UK

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Peer review occupies a central locus within the process of formal scholarly communication, and it is helpful to divide its functions into two broad areas: technical and impact assessment. Whereas technical assessment tends to be objective and provides greater confidence in (although cannot assure) the reliability of published findings, impact assessment is subjective and its role is less clear-cut. Impact assessment, as currently performed by the majority of journals during the pre-publication peer-review process, is the means by which research articles are currently organized (in terms of audience and potential significance) in journals. However, a new paradigm is emerging, whereby articles are subject only to technical assessment (by peer review) before publication, and impact assessment takes place during the post-publication phase. This paradigm is exemplified by PLoS ONE which became the largest peer-reviewed journal four years after its launch. PLoS ONE and related journals have the potential to grow extremely rapidly, to accelerate research communication, and to transform the traditional scholarly journal.