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I have just reviewed for a journal that allows me to transfer my information to Publons. It seems Publons is a relatively new thing with limited uptake. It also seems like the type of thing that would be better suited to be managed by a non-profit in a free (at least as in freedom and possibly as in beer) sense.

Is there a free competitor to Publons? If not, what data should I be keeping regarding my reviews such that if at a later date I wish to upload them to Publons, or a competitor, I can?

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    Can you shortly explain what Publons is all about? – lighthouse keeper Dec 13 '17 at 20:41
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    @lighthousekeeper I don't think so. The webpage is filled with a bunch of marketing mumbo jumbo. It appears they want some information from me that the journal I reviewed for doesn't feel it can give away without my consent. This will allow Publons to harness the power of peer review (I told you mumbo jumbo) which will allow me to get ahead. – StrongBad Dec 13 '17 at 20:49
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    Ah, well. Getting ahead is a rather broad usecase, but also a very desirable one. So I'm sure there will be some free alternatives. – lighthouse keeper Dec 13 '17 at 21:04
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I have looked into this question a couple times since Publons became active. There does not seem to be any other platform with the same functionality available. So I use Publons, albeit in a very minor way.

The Publons site let's you take credit for reviews, but as part of prepublication refereeing and post publication reviewing. You have the option to make as much information about the reviews public as you want, including the full text. I don't really use it for anything except as a service to validate that I have completed as many reviews as I say I have.

Every time I get an e-mail acknowledgement of a referee report I have submitted, I just forward it to reviews@publons.com. Coming from the e-mail address I have registered with Publons, the site knows that these are referee reports to be added to my profile. For journals that are hooked into the Publons system, the processing is very fast; for other journals, it takes a few days. And no information about the confirmed reviews appears on my public Publons profit, except the date and the journal involved. I could make more visible, but it defaulted to that minimal information.

When I submit my annual statement of activities, I thus have an external site to attest to all my reviewing work. In fact, I've never needed it; my self reporting had never been doubted. But if it were, Publons would be there to back me up.

  • Journals can back you up, too, in case you need to confirm how many reviews you made. So what is the advantage with respect to keeping the e-mails and doing nothing at all? – Federico Poloni Dec 13 '17 at 22:47
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    @FedericoPoloni I don't know, honestly. I use the site, but it hasn't really be useful for anything. However, I don't know of any other centralized services that will do the same kinds of things. – Buzz Dec 14 '17 at 0:38
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    Are you saying that your public profile includes the journals you have reviewed for including the date you submitted the review? That seems to have a big risk of breaking the blindness of the reviews. – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 14 '17 at 8:43
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    @TobiasKildetoft It lists just the year of each review, it seems. Although the order in which the reviews are listed (and the moment in which they appear on the site) may reveal more information to a dedicated user. – Federico Poloni Dec 14 '17 at 13:20
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    @FedericoPoloni Ahh, the year is not that bad I guess. – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 14 '17 at 13:23
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I found PubPeer which seems to provide a relatively lean subset of Publons' features. After a first glimpse, PubPeer appears mainly as a post-publication review platform, lean in the sense that it would provide per-paper blogs. Users would simply enter paper IDs (e.g. arxiv ID, DOI, etc.) and start providing comments. I suppose, they provide quality-assurance features and features making such blogs more social, ratings, likes etc.

There are a few uses of PubPeer in the context of plagiarism detection (one more), flaw discussion, and paper retraction. There are further possibilities such a platform might help with.

Beyond PubPeer, Publons allows scientists who are delivering community service (whether pre- or post-publication peer reviews) to build up a visible record of their contributions as a peer reviewer. I think, this is a pretty important function of Publons because peer review, although often seen as an implicitly compensated part of the usual scientific activity, is occasionally suffering from being undervalued and badly incentivized in the scientific community.

Regarding "free as in freedom", PubPeer is a US-based "public-benefit corporation with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in the United States", whatever that means, whereas Publons (NZ-based according to Twitter) is a company acquired by Clarivate Analytics, a multi-national commercial enterprise.

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It seems now there is a free (as in free speech) alternative, via ORCID. A few months ago they introduced a system to make verifiable peer reviews visible in your profile. You can read more about it here. I was thinking of making a Publons profile, but given that it is owned by a commercial entity, it ends up being just another data mining company, very much like academia.edu and researchgate are. Great that we have now an alternative!

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