Peer Review Week – it’s back!

Given all the support and interest in the first ever Peer Review Week it’s great to see that it’s back again, championing the vital role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality.

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Peer Review Week is set for 19th-25th September 2016. It is an increasingly global event bringing together diverse individuals, institutions, publishers and organizations committed to sharing the central message that robust peer review, whatever the particular model, is critical to science communication.

The theme this year is “Recognition for Review”, exploring how those participating in review activity, ranging from reviewing manuscripts, grants, conference submissions through to applications for promotion and tenure, could be recognized for their contribution.

Last year, BioMed Central and Springer got involved in Peer Review Week and highlighted some of the resources we had to offer and various research and initiatives underway.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve the peer review process. At BioMed Central we have always supported diversity in models of peer review and have journals operating the traditional single-blind peer review (where authors do not know who the reviewers are), double-blind peer review (where neither authors or reviewers know each other’s identity) and fully open peer review (where authors know who the reviewers are and if the manuscript is published the reading public can read the named reviewers’ reports).

Although there are pros and cons to all models of peer review, openness assists in training of peer reviewers, facilitates further research on how peer review operates, can lead to an increase in the overall quality of reviewer reports and of course, provides recognition for the work peer reviewers do.

Some of our journals offer solutions designed to remove other frustrations with the peer review process. For example, Biology Direct puts the authors at the forefront allowing them to suggest potential Editorial Board Members to peer review their manuscript. Epigenetics & Chromatin facilitates expedited peer review where the Editors will consider rapid publication of manuscripts that have had a ‘near miss’ at a high interest journal if they are submitted together with the original peer reviewer reports, letter of rejection, and a brief rebuttal.

BMC Biology offers its own solution for authors to avoid endless rounds of re-review, by allowing authors to opt out of re-review all together and let the Editors make the final editorial decision. For further information on this editorial policy see this Q&A by Miranda Robertson, Editor of BMC Biology.

Increasingly, peer review is not something that journals need to undertake alone, and BioMed Central has partnerships to facilitate efficient portable peer review, (e.g. with Peerage of Science, Axios Review, eLIFE and the Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium).

We are also willing to provide enhanced support for the work peer reviewers do by exploring automating certain aspects of the process. For example, can statistical software automatically check for critical elements in submitted biomedical manuscripts?

A pilot evaluation is currently underway. There is also a need to share peer review experiences and knowledge, and BMC Medicine has published a series of specialized ‘How to’ peer review articles written by experienced members of the journal’s editorial board.

To encourage more research into peer review and help share findings from disparate research fields we have launched a new open access journal Research Integrity and Peer Review. In keeping with Drummond Rennie’s recent call to make peer review scientific, the journal welcomes submissions on research and publication ethics, research reporting, and peer review.

And of course, in line with the theme of this year’s Peer Review Week, we also appreciate that publishers need to do more to acknowledge the work that peer reviewers do. Recent surveys continue to show that reviewers value recognition over more material rewards. Publishers can play a role here by providing citable reviewer acknowledgements, listing of the best reviewers or via individual reviewer recognition platforms.

However, as is often the case with issues in scholarly publishing, providing appropriate recognition for peer review is not something that publishers can solve single-handedly. This September, we look forward to discussions involving researchers, institutions, funding bodies, editors and publishers to explore a global solution to the complex issue of recognition for peer review and in what form(s) this could possibly take.

For more information about Peer Review Week, please see the website here and join the conversation on Twitter #PeerRevWk16 and #RecognizeReview.

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Michael Morton

Peer review in medicine goes beyond considerations of methodology. There is an important task to consider ethical aspects of clinical papers (case studies and series). This requires a reviewer with appropriate clinical experience and a wider knowledge of the range of accepted practice.

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