Peer-Review Open-Access - Excitement for publishing and gratitude for the Bohannon study!

If you've read many of my blogs, you know that one of my goals is to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. What is peer-reviewed? Put simply, such journals require qualified experts to determine if submitted articles are sound, valid, reliable, and worthy of publishing. It is far better, for example, to be published in the American Educational Research Journal than to be published in a state's board of education newsletter. An even more personal application would be my articles published at They are newsworthy, and they have few if any grammatical or spelling errors; however, a peer-reviewed music journal would never publish the articles.

So, my short-term goal is to have an article I authored or co-authored be published in a peer-reviewed journal. And, my long-term goal is to have a book related to the study of music in early education that I either authored or co-authored be published and reviewed by Daniel Levitin. I think those goals are worthy of a bucket list.

Returning to the idea of being published in a peer-review journal, I
recently discovered that there are open-access journals which use peer-review to choose which articles to include. Open-access means the articles are free to share online. You do not need to subscribe to the journal in order to read the articles.  Neither do you need to pay a fee. One link from twitter led me to an article published by PLOS One, and using that link, I found several other articles about music cognition and cognitive development. All of these articles were no better/no worse than ones I would read in a subscription-based journal like Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. Rather, these articles were accessible whereas other non-open access journal articles would most likely not be.

I've surmised that the idea of open-access is the direction all peer-reviewed journals are heading. It makes sense for me to find out as much as I can about the publication standards and the quality of peer-review.

Enter John Bohannon. Shortly after my discovery of PLOS, a twitter account I follow tweeted about a controversial study Bohannon, writer at Science Magazine, had done proving fallacies in the peer-review process for open access journals. His goal was to distinguish peer-review quality between those journals that are open-access and those that are not. Honestly, this was a concern of mine. To prove or disprove his hypothesis, he submitted a fictitious study that had glaring errors in grammar, methodology, analysis, and results ONLY to those open access peer-review journals that often published fallacious articles. He wanted to find out who would accept the article and who would not. In presenting his findings of the acceptance or rejection of the article submission, Bohannon immediately accused the open-access journals of not conducting a thorough peer review.

Writers, editors, professional organizations, and journal publishers immediately brought this controversy to light and attempted to reach as many as they could through letters, blogs, and articles to show that Bohannon's study was wrong.

This reminds me of my first classes in psychology, learning about observer bias. As objective as we would
like to be in a given study, it can be very easy to be subjective. For me, one of my first dissertation ideas was to look at the effects of kinesthetic treatment on the academic achievement of kinesthetic typed learners who had no significant learning disability. I was already a firm believer in learning strategies and learning theories. Of course, I hoped that there would be a positive correlation between the kinesthetic treatment and academic achievement.

Similarly, I believe Bohannon approached his study hoping that there would be a positive correlation with his poorly written article and its acceptance in poorly peer-reviewed journals. Subjectivity is unavoidable, but the writer, after completing his study, must present everything he has done, the results, and the discussion in an objective light.

Bohannon was not objective in any way here. He has only proven that some open access peer review journals are bad, and a fluff piece in Glamour magazine could do the same with five lipstick brands that most of the office didn't like! If he wanted to look at peer-review among open access journals, why not submit his fake paper to all of these open access journals? If he wanted to look at the difference in peer review, why not submit his fake paper to a random number of open access and non-open access journals? His methodology was indeed flawed, and if I were only to read his study, I would fail to understand the differences between peer review when publishing to open access or non-open access journals.

My opinion, which many share, is that Bohannon conducted a fallacious study about a fallacious study. Who wants to read about a bad study? Well, in this case, Bohannon's blatant disregard for sound valid research needed to be read and discussed at great length so that others won't be baffled or discouraged by the present and future state of open access peer-review journals.

Finally, while Bohannon didn't turn me off from publishing in open access peer review journals, the discussions started as a result of his article pushed me forward to finding all that I can about the process. As recent as two days ago, one open access journal publisher shared the results of its study on who is publishing in their journals, why they chose to do so, and the increase or trend toward publishing in open access journals. Similarly, another blogger suggested a study to look at the various levels of writers to see where the publish, and whether there is some kind of directional publishing as an individual moves from doctoral to post doc, to early researcher, to full researcher.

Technically, I don't fit into any of those categories, but that only leaves me to do my own homework.

  • Which individuals, who only have an MS degree, are successfully publishing? 
  • In which subject areas are these individuals publishing? 
  • Are these individuals aiming toward open access or non-open access? 
  • And, for this group, how long does peer review last, and how many articles have been rejected through peer review? 

I would imagine there may be several articles that could answer these questions for me. But, as open access is still new, I might be the one to conduct the research! Stay tuned!
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