While a handful of journals occasionally pay their referees a small honorarium in return for their service, this is by no means the norm. It is also not a viable solution. Open peer-review promises a more constructive and transparent dialogue among scientists, and constructive criticism if published would be a valuable addition to the literature. However, any attempt to radically change the nature of peer-review must necessarily be accompanied by a change in the way the referees are compensated for their time and effort, especially within academia. For example, opening up the review process allows for the possibility of referee reports being indexed and cited, so that a scientist who writes an insightful review is rewarded professionally for their work. Author-level metrics that measure the productivity of a researcher often factor into decisions about hiring, grant approval and promotions, and these might also be adapted to include scientific contributions in the form of referee reports.
The world of scholarly communication is broken. All of the technology and traits to build a hybridised scholarly commons infrastructure already exists. It is up to academic communities themselves to step away from their apathy and toward a fairer and more democratic system for sharing the knowledge and work. The question of publishing reform is not theoretically or conceptually complex. The future of scholarly communication depends more on overcoming social tensions and the training to defer to a powerful system embedded in global research cultures than on breaking down technological barriers.
Over three quarters of published journal articles are locked behind a paywall of some sort, and fees can approach £25,000 for the very largest journals if libraries fail to purchase subscriptions of bundled titles, which can cost millions. The problem exacerbates in the developing world, where penurious institutions can afford only a small fraction of the access they really require, severely limiting both students and researchers. Budgets are pillaged to provide access to just a glimpse of cutting-edge research. These universities have little choice in the matter: scientific papers, tending to be highly individual pieces, cannot be easily substituted. When libraries cannot pay, bizarre situations arise.
The primary problem with predatory journals is that the articles published on their platforms do not undergo rigorous peer review. Under the conventional peer-review process, once an author submits a paper to a journal for consideration, the journal will then send it out to other scientists for their review. The reviewers normally ask for revisions. Only when the reviewers agree that the work is of a sufficiently high quality does the science gets published. If the work is insufficient, the paper is rejected. The simplest step is to use the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), rather than the favourite search engine, to find journals or articles. This 'whitelist' database only lists reputable open-access journals. Although not all reputable journals are included on the DOAJ, disreputable journals are not.
Hybrid Open Access journals offer researchers something that many fully Open Access journals cannot: prestige and tradition. Hybrid journals are already well-established and, over the years or decades, have accumulated a certain reputation within the research community. Whereas, Open Access still is not the norm and might, in some cases, even be seen as risky. If researchers regard more traditional publication venues as beneficial or even necessary for their advancing their career, hybrid journals seem like a safe and easy choice to provide Open Access while following the rules to move up the ivory tower. But due to a lack of discoverability, hybrid Open Access might not offer authors the best value after all.