Peer review is far from perfect, but as the only quality check in science, it plays a vital role in scholarly communications. For Peer Review Week 2017, we asked campaigners, researchers and thought leaders in peer review to share their thoughts on what the future of peer review would look like to them. By engaging with the faces behind peer review, we hope to get a better overview of what changes need to happen to make peer review count for both the scholarly community and society at large. Read on to see what they had to say.
You can keep up-to-date with all activities related to Peer Review Week this week by using the Twitter hashtags #PeerRevWk17 and #TransparencyinReview. If you would like to share your views on what peer review means to you, join the global conversation using the hashtag #wepeerreview.
what is the future of peer review?
For too long peer review has been confidential with research papers scrutinized by a small number of anonymous experts and reports kept secret. I would like to make this more transparent, so it is fit for the 21st century. Many would agree that research funded by the public purse should be openly available to all. It follows that the evidence – data, peer review – on which claims are made, should be open and subject to wider review too? Transparency provides an opportunity to improve both the quality of peer review and reduce fraud. By publishing and signing their reports reviewers can get recognition for this important contribution. Journals such as Royal Society Open Science and F1000 Research and services such as Publons and ORCID are enabling this. Overall, the whole peer review process gains more trust and accountability when transparent. In the future I would like all research papers published with peer review reports, with the latter being widely used as evidence for policy makers, as a communication tool to the public and as a fully recognized research output in awarding grants and tenure.
The future of peer review will be built on three pillars:
1) recognition for reviewers – institutions and funders need to reward those doing the work 2) training for reviewers – at the moment there isn’t really a way for researchers to learn how to review and then show editors that they are capable 3) better tools for editors – more efficient ways to find reviewers and then safely contact them
These changes are critical if we want to build the efficiencies, and transparency will allow the peer review process to safely defend against fraud while publishing millions of articles every year. I wrote about this in detail recently in a Scientific American op ed – it’s up to all of us as a community to lay the ground work to make this happen.
I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to peer review (or pretty much anything else in scholarly communications!). From open, pre-publication annotation through traditional, double-blind peer review and everything in between, there are already many successful models in place, and I have no doubt there will be more in future as scholarship continues to develop… So in my view, it’s more important to focus on a common set of outcomes than on the process itself. What is critical, though, is that publications (and others) are transparent about how their peer review process works, and why they have chosen it, so that the reviewer has a clear understanding of what they are being asked to do and why.
Motivating reviewers to review and making it easier for them to review well is becoming even more important. It’s being generally recognized that there needs to be greater recognition of peer review activity… One of the biggest changes I’d like to see is increased transparency of the peer-review and editorial processes. When I read articles I increasingly want to see the reviews and how the authors responded. The reviewers’ names don’t have to appear – that’s something journals and communities should decide themselves – but why can’t every journal publish the reviews and author responses alongside its articles?
Peer review has a future, on condition that we find a way to make it more sustainable in a world of hyper-competition between scientists and academic institutions. Initiatives to reward peer reviewers at a reputational level, more efficient organization of the process, technologies that can help decrease the burden and the costs on everyone involved, from editors to reviewers and authors, are necessary.
Peer review should cover all stages of the research process, from the design and pre-registration of a study, the collection and processing of research data, as well as the publication of research outcomes. Alongside this process, researchers should be supported by infrastructure and tools which support collaboration and communication processes, and allow to archive and share elements within individuals, research groups or the wider community. Many of the tools are certainly there but have not been plugged together yet.
Peer reviewing is clearly a huge part of researchers’ involvement and contribution to their field and to their own knowledge and skill development… I think recognizing reviewing formally would help prioritize peer reviewing and safeguard it in the longer term. Those who contribute to this time-consuming activity need to be recognized for the service they provide to the scientific community. It needs to be approached professionally and seriously, enabling senior researchers to spend time mentoring early career researchers in it.