Yesterday the National Geographic published an article about a study conducted by John Bohannon (“Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?“) to test if Open Access peer reviewed journals actually rejected a spoof study due to several errors.

In short the results of Bohannons’ study:

  • only 106 of the tested 255 Open Access Journals performed a review, while the others basically accepted the paper for publication
  • some did reject the article – for example: PLOS One rejected it
  • of the 106 reviewed journals 70% ultimately accepted the paper
  • it does not show that good Open Access journals cannot be as good as the best closed Access journals

It has to be mentioned that the article was just “focused on open access journals and makes no claim about the comparative quality of open access vs. traditional subscription journals“.

However in the article of Bohannon and the article by the National Geographic you can feel a bit of an “attack” or complain against Open Access journals. Especially comments like:

“The public wanted open access to scientific literature, and now they are getting it,” Steneck says. “They now need to get over the idea that they can get all that information for free without someone doing the real hard work of reviewing papers.” Source: National Geographic: Fake Cancer Study Spotlights Bogus Science Journals

are not appropriate to the debate. For me the main problem is the peer-review process, but this is to some extend independent of the publishing model. The articles just show, that Open Access Publishers (like other Publishers) will always have to work further on the qualitiy of their publications and on the peer-review process. This will be crucial for the success of Open Access and of all other publishing models. But we have to get rid of the myth that open access automaticly means no quality peer review means no quality.

In addition to that, we should also see how much fake science has been published by traditional non-OA journals in modern history. This will be a good opportunity for Open Access to become more rigorous in the future.

Peter Suber wrote a recommended responses on that issue and the even the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) has published a response.

Christian Heise


Research Associate at the Hybrid Publishing Lab and Member of Board of the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, currently working on his Ph.D thesis about Open Science. More about me...

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