Background: “Open peer review” (OPR), despite being a major pillar of Open Science, has neither a standardized definition nor an agreed schema of its features and implementations. The literature reflects this, with a myriad of overlapping and often contradictory definitions. While the term is used by some to refer to peer review where the identities of both author and reviewer are disclosed to each other, for others it signifies systems where reviewer reports are published alongside articles. For others it signifies both of these conditions, and for yet others it describes systems where not only “invited experts” are able to comment. For still others, it includes a variety of combinations of these and other novel methods.
Methods: Recognising the absence of a consensus view on what open peer review is, this article undertakes a systematic review of definitions of “open peer review” or “open review”, to create a corpus of 122 definitions. These definitions are then systematically analysed to build a coherent typology of the many different innovations in peer review signified by the term, and hence provide the precise technical definition currently lacking.
Results: This quantifiable data yields rich information on the range and extent of differing definitions over time and by broad subject area. Quantifying definitions in this way allows us to accurately portray exactly how ambiguously the phrase “open peer review” has been used thus far, for the literature offers a total of 22 distinct configurations of seven traits, effectively meaning that there are 22 different definitions of OPR in the literature.
Conclusions: Based on this work, I propose a pragmatic definition of open peer review as an umbrella term for a number of overlapping ways that peer review models can be adapted in line with the ethos of Open Science, including making reviewer and author identities open, publishing review reports and enabling greater participation in the peer review process.