Peer review has some problems – but the science community is working on it

Peer review is that the central foundation of science. It’s a method wherever scientific results square measure vetted by tutorial peers, with publication in an exceedingly respectable journal qualifying the deserves of the work and informing readers of the newest scientific discoveries.

But review generally gets a foul rap – criticised for an acknowledged lack of transparency, low responsibility and even poor scientific rigour.

There’s currently the respectable movement towards tweaking or maybe remodelling the review system. Key areas of focus embrace creating journal editors additional directive within the method, rewardful reviewers, and up the responsibility of editors, reviewers and authors.

Peer review relies on volunteers

The peers within the critique system square measure volunteer teachers like an expert relevant to the paper being thought of. however it’s exhausting to seek out appropriate volunteers.

Reviewing is additional complicated and burdensome than simply rejecting or acceptive a manuscript. additional usually than not, a reviewer suggests extra experiments that authors have unnoticed, or challenges the interpretation of a number of the information. This initiates a dialogue between author and reviewer aimed toward rising the integrity and scientific advantage of the paper.

It takes time – a minimum of seven to eight hours per paper done properly, with no remuneration or recognition for the reviewer and thus seldom thought to be a priority in a very busy educational schedule. As a result, scientific rigour will be lost once reviews become fast-tracked.

On the opposite extreme, generally novice reviewers (perhaps making an attempt to impress the editor) will flip little discrepancies into important flaws. This presents a breakdown within the fairness of the review method.


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Overall, these problems produce a restricted variety of peer reviewers in practice, the associated outcome which will result in discrimination.

Delving any into this remaining inadequate pool of reviewers, a major gender gap is additionally apparent. Nature reports that under two-hundredth of its reviewers in 2017 were girls.

More accountability from editors

We should demand additional of our journal editors.

Editors will become additional proactive by rejecting articles that aren’t at publication customary upon submission, instead of inserting the arduous task on a reviewer to be each mortal and duplicate checker.

To retain and train novice reviewers, clearer analysis criteria from editors would immensely improve the responsibility and quality of submitted papers.

Editors might conjointly interact higher in an exceedingly dynamic dialogue between author and reviewer – electronic communication technologies modify time period world discussions to facilitate efficient review processes for all concerned.

Recognition of reviewers

Traditionally, editors are delayed to be a revered a part of the referee method, and reviewers are merely not acknowledged for his or her contributions. however, this can be ever-changing.

To promote hyperbolic transparency, bigger responsibility and fairness, open referee processes list reviewers and editors additionally to authors in every publication.

This is happening currently in fresh established on-line journals reminiscent of life. freelance platform Publons rewards reviewers by listing all peer reviewing and editorial activity to produce proof of a reviewer’s professional contributions in their field. Publons additionally runs a reviewer awards program.

Similarly, Elsevier has started a “reviewer recognition programme”, extending varied rewards and business with a yearly list acknowledging the contributions of all the reviewers.

This method has been met with criticism by some United Nations agency insist obscurity guarantees unbiased opinions.

Post- vs pre-publication peer review

It’s currently turning into clear that scientific dialogue doesn’t ought to stop at the termination of publication, which not all issues inside a manuscript is also known at the time of critique.

Post-publication critique in its most valid type, involves a journal appreciate Frontiers asking lecturers to perform a broadcast interactive dialogue with authors throughout the review method, giving level of answerableness and responsibility.

Other journals appreciate college of one thousand analysis, Copernicus and PLOS ONE publish papers with the lowest analysis. This shifts the main target towards post-publication critique – authors, reviewers and readers critique and discusses the paper to evaluate its scientific advantage within the property right.




Alternative post-publication critique platforms appreciate ScienceOpen invite all scientists registered with digital symbol ORCID to write down a review or discuss DOI-linked papers. This facilitates engagement of an outsized cross-sectional of the scientific community for dynamic appraisal of a publication’s scientific advantage.

Forums appreciate Pubpeer invite anonymous statement from anyone within the scientific or general community. this happens immoderately, brazenly facilitating the likelihood of troll and abusive behaviour occasionally culminating in action at law.

Time to try something new?

Peer review isn’t able to be retired – however it’s fit to vary.

A recent trial by eLife intends to radically remodel the roles of editor, reviewer and author. in step with this model, if a senior editor deems a publication warrant aiming to review, this paper straightaway qualifies for publication.

Once underneath review, associate degree open dialogue between author and reviewers takes place. Upon receipt of reviewers’ recommendations, the authors will attempt to continue experiments if suggested, retract the paper or publish it. This leaves the author’s call to the scrutiny of the overall scientific community.

This innovation could greatly improve the transparency of open review, increase responsibility on behalf of all participants and cut back burden on the review system. It addresses the 3 major ways needed for improvement of the review system. however is it a step too so much, too soon? Time can tell.

The overall goal of debates around review and look of recent publication platforms and approaches is to make a coalition of authors, reviewers and editors to uphold scientific integrity.

This is important not simply at intervals tutorial circles, however additionally to keep up the name of science within the broader community.

Peer review has some problems – but the science community is working on it | Author – Jessica Borger, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Immunology, Monash University [Link]