Trialing transparency at Genome Biology

Earlier this year Genome Biology launched a trial of transparent peer review, allowing reviewers' reports and authors' responses to them to be published alongside the final article. Here to update us on the trial and the responses to it, is Senior Editor, Andrew Cosgrove.

The theme of Peer Review Week 2017 was transparency, and to mark the occasion, this September we launched a trial of transparent peer review at Genome Biology. Although transparency may mean different things to different people, we are taking it to mean the process whereby the reviewers’ reports, and the authors’ response to them, are published alongside the final article (in situations where both the authors and reviewers opt in). The reviewers may sign their reports if they wish, but this is not mandatory. This model of peer review introduces a degree of openness to the peer review process and helps to address some of the criticisms that have been leveled at traditional peer review.

This model of peer review introduces a degree of openness to the peer review process and helps to address some of the criticisms that have been leveled at traditional peer review.

A number of journals have been using transparent, or fully open, peer review for many years, but such review models are yet to become mainstream, and are still regarded with skepticism by some.

Last year, Nature Communications published results from their transparent peer review trial, showing that they have had good uptake from authors opting to having reviewers’ comments published alongside their articles. This is also one of the motivations of our trial, as well as to find out how this move would be received by reviewers, and whether they would be more likely to decline or accept invitations to peer review. It might also prepare the ground for Genome Biology to switch to fully open peer review in the future, depending on the reception by the community, our authors, reviewers, and editors alike.

BMC has long been a pioneer of innovative review models, as highlighted in BMC’s recent ‘Research in Progress’ report. Genome Biology‘s trial of transparent peer review is part of the company’s on-going commitment to increase openness in the peer review process.

So far, we are pleased to report that the trial is going well, with an encouraging rate of uptake from the authors (although not universal opt-in). It is too early to tell if there has been any effect on reviewer uptake, but no reviewers have yet specifically mentioned the increase in transparency as a reason for declining

We also had a fantastically positive response from our Twitter followers:

We’ll share the outcomes of the trial in 2018 when the results are in, so keep watching this space.

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