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Piloting the Open Peer Review Process

Discussion on the openness of the review process continues in academia. It is unarguably true that there are both advantages as well as challenges in the open review process. Our experiences at HHBIC highlight the positive side.

Published : 03.02.2021

Haaga-Helia Business Innovation Conference (HHBIC) on Entrepreneurship for a Better Future was held for the first time in November 2020. We received almost 50 submissions during the call for submission of abstracts, extended abstracts and full papers. The one-day event comprised of parallel sessions linked to four tracks; entrepreneurial ecosystems driving success, entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurial learning in higher education and other topics related to entrepreneurship.

Open peer review

During the conference preparation, the organising committee wished to pilot an open peer review process, that is, revealing the identities of both author(s) and reviewers to each other.

The decision to pilot the open review process in this way, was done to increase the transparency of the process, give reviewers the credit they deserve and to develop the quality and the accountability of the review process. By openly connecting reviewers with their evaluations, we wanted to encourage more comprehensive and constructive reviews, increase transparency and participation in scientific processes as well as to benefit authors to proceed further in improving their earlier draft of the manuscript.

We acknowledged that there would be differences in perception and willingness among reviewers towards this type of peer review process. Previous studies show that in some cases, this might lead to resistance or declining a review invitation. However, we chose to commence in an effort to test the benefits of an open process.

Implementing open peer review

The reviewers were informed about the open review process and asked to confirm their willingness in reviewing the conference submissions. None of the reviewers refused.

We provided reviewers with clear and detailed instructions on how to access the submission and on how to evaluate it using different criteria. The timeline for reviewing was within 3 weeks of acceptance of the review invitation.

Each submission needed to be graded as excellent, satisfactory, or poor across nine criteria including theoretical framework, originality and novelty, structure, data, method, analysis and reliability, argumentation, language, and references. Excellent carried a score of three; satisfactory was graded as two and poor as one. Besides marking the submissions across these different criteria, reviewers had to provide concrete comments on how to improve the submission and arguments for accepting or rejecting it for the conference.

The scores for each submission was used in the evaluation process for awarding the best papers. As an acknowledgement for their contribution, all reviewers were sent an invitation to attend the conference for free.

Feedback on open review

As open science is something that Haaga-Helia is committed to furthering, we wanted to explore the experiences of the reviewers’ for HHBIC. A short survey was sent to all the reviewers.

The results were rather unanimous: majority of the respondents considered the open review process to be functional. Some of the keywords and phrases that were used include ‘fair’, ‘very good’, ‘encouraged openness and supportive feedback’, ‘good thought and fair to everyone’, ‘good future model’, and ‘is a value worth striving’. Many described the overall review experience as good, positive, professional and were in favor of this practice.

From a broader perspective, on one hand, the piloting of the open review process during HHBIC helped us to a take a step forward towards promoting Open Science. On the other hand, this process allowed reviewers to be more careful to support their critique with good arguments, phrase criticism in constructive ways, reveal their biases and try to focus only on the merits of the work and not on the author. This then generated increased responsibility and accountability among the reviewers, and overall fairer reviews. We believe that this resulted in maintaining and ensuring the high quality of the conference.


Discussion on the openness of the review process continues in academia. It is unarguably true that there are both advantages as well as challenges in the open review process. Our experiences at HHBIC highlight the positive side.

There is a bundle of benefits with this process: it encourages mutual trust, respect, open criticism, efficient and constructive quality assurance, transparency and accountability, and it facilitates wider and more inclusive discussion and gives reviewers recognition. Are you ready to reveal your name in a review report?

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