I just noticed this news on the IT Society webpage.
On an experimental basis, open reviewing of submissions to the Transactions will be allowed to complement the standard procedure. If a paper preprint is posted on ArXiv (http://www.arxiv.org/), with the explicit indication “Submitted to the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory,” then its readers are allowed to send their comments about it to the Editor-in-Chief, Ezio Biglieri. Provided that these comments are not frivolous or obviously biased, the Editor-in-Chief will forward them to the Associate Editor in charge of the paper as a supplement of regular peer reviews.
I wonder how many people will actually do this — everyone I know who does a fair bit of reviewing seems overwhelmed by their own load and wouldn’t really have the time to send a comment on another paper. What it probably will do is improve the connections to related literature, since I’m guessing more people read the abstract of the preprint on ArXiV than do if/when it is published in the Transactions.
I’m now on the Web resources mailing list for the IT Society and there has been some discussion of how to start some discussion or comments thread for ArXiV-ed papers. There seems to be a push for an “opening up” of the review process in general. Not that the technical review should be opened up, but that the value of a preprint is that its perceived impact can be discussed (semi)-publicly. The epistemology of that distinction is pretty interesting, I think…