Academic Karma was built on the conviction that publishers should not control peer-review. We believed that the publisher-controlled system of academic peer review results in unreasonably expensive article processing fees (and big profit margins for journals) which is both an unnecessary drain on public funding for science as well as a barrier to publishing for less affluent researchers. We wanted to replace the notion that academics review “for a journal”, with the notion that academic review papers for the academic community.
As an alternative, we built a universal platform for peer review. Reviewers could use our platform to review any manuscript, and we would email the link to the review to the author, editor and journal at the same time. In order to encourage timely reviews, reviewers earned points for reviews returned within 10 days of acceptance. Authors (and academic editors) were happy to get comments back quickly, but we received a lot of push-back from journals with automated review systems, as it meant extra work in inputting the review into these systems. Reviewers would continue to receive chase up emails for them to submit reviews weeks after submitting them via Academic Karma, and as a result stopped using it.
The increasing popularity of preprints provided a new opportunity to challenge the publisher’s control of peer review. We re-purposed our platform as a preprint peer-review platform. Reviewers could use our platform to make their reviews of preprints open (with the option of allowing the author to upload their reply first). Moreover, authors were able to use Academic Karma to conduct a full open peer-review process outside the journal system. We also built a system were academics could curate automatically updating list of preprints matching a specific theme. Similarly, we created a system for curating preprints presented at conferences.
We still believe that it is bad for science that publishers control peer-review, but ultimately we were unable to make much of an impact. Innovation around preprints still seems a promising way for scientists to take back some control over co-ordinating peer-review. If you are interested, we recommend checking out other experiments in peer-review, many of which are listed here https://reimaginereview.asapbio.org/ .
You can export all reviews you have written at Academic Karma (see http://academickarma.org/closing). Thank you to everyone who contributed reviews.