But can the internet handle all the spite and unseemliness?
Another risk is the ‘weaponization’ of reviewer reports. Opponents of certain types of research (for example, on genetically modified organisms, climate change and vaccines) could take critical remarks in peer reviews out of context or mischaracterize disagreements to undermine public trust in the paper, the field or science as a whole. Queries to eLife, The BMJ and EMBO Press about this problem revealed only one, mild example (see go.nature.com/2piygkb). But weaponization could be a greater concern for journals that publish work that is more likely to be politicized.
One precaution would be to add a disclaimer explaining the peer-review process and its role in scientific discussion. Opening up materials and establishing dialogues with journalists, politicians and the public is an opportunity to build trust and enhance understanding of the scientific process.
Published peer-review reports could also place editorial decisions under greater scrutiny and perhaps make editors more timid about overriding critical reviews (see go.nature.com/2bid8ag). Equally, published reports could boost appreciation for the role of editors in synthesizing and prioritizing diverse reviewer opinions… Jessica K. Polka, Robert Kiley, Boyana Konforti, Bodo Stern & Ronald D. Vale, “Publish peer reviews” at Nature
It’s not as if inherently political topics won’t be politicized anyway. Playing with a full deck limits the types of accusations that may legitimately be made.
See also: All peer reviews should be published, argues bioengineer