Open Biology talks to Panos Soutanas, author of one of the first papers to be published in the journal’s new open peer review format. Under this model not only is the article available freely online, but all the reviewer reports, decision letters and associated author responses are also freely accessible.
Firstly, we would like to congratulate you on being one of the first authors to publish in Open Biology with our new open peer review mandate! And thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview.
Thank you, it is a pleasure to publish our work in Open Biology and have the opportunity to voice openly my opinion about an open and transparent peer review process.
Tell us about yourself and your research.
My lab specialises in bacterial DNA replication mechanisms with emphasis on the Gram positive model organism Bacillus subtilis. In our paper published in Open Biology, we have re-evaluated the role of DnaE in replication and showed that DnaE has considerable polymerase activity during lagging strand synthesis. DnaE also plays an important role during initiation of replication at oriC, and may have an additional role during DNA repair. Thus DnaE is not a minor polymerase but under certain circumstances it can assume a major DNA synthesis role.
What made you submit to Open Biology and what was your experience of the process?
Open Biology is a relatively new journal and I have been impressed with the quality of papers published and its rapid impact factor rise.
This year’s theme for Peer Review Week is ‘Transparency in review’. What do you understand this to mean?
Constructive peer review with reviewers and authors having an open and constructive discussion about the data presented in papers.
And why is transparency so important in the world of research?
It is very important to have a transparent peer review process as it encourages in depth open minded discussions and critical debate, improves the quality of published data, generates new ideas, increases fairness and promotes scientific collegiality. In some cases scientific opinion is dominated by ideas and theories that have not been established accurately and it is difficult to publish data against common “truisms”. Transparent peer review will change this and promote the “scientific truth”.
As a researcher, what impact do you think Open Peer Review will have in terms of study design/manuscript drafting?
It will provide more confidence for authors to be more adventurous in discussing data as they will have the opportunity to debate constructively the results of their work.
What impact do you think Open Peer Review will have on peer reviewers?
It will “force” them to be more constructive, open minded and will eliminate hidden agendas. They will be more careful and considerate when reviewing papers.
How effective do you think the current peer review process is?
I think Open Biology has a very effective peer review process and I would encourage other scientific journals to follow on the same path.
Do you think the improved transparency of Open Peer Review will improve this at all?
Yes it will improve the whole process of scientific publishing and will enhance new ideas, innovation and challenging of old/poorly supported concepts.
And finally, what’s next for you and your research?
I guess like most academics, I will be concentrating on obtaining funding for my research under the current challenging climate of increased competitiveness and reduced funding in the UK. I am worried that post BREXIT UK science will suffer with even more decreased funding, an exodus of talented established scientists and inability to recruit new talented scientists to the UK.