What are the barriers to post-publication peer review?

Post-publication peer review emerged in response to increased calls for continuous moderation of the published research literature, consistent questioning of the functionality of the traditional peer review model, and a recognition that scientific discourse does not stop at the point of publication. However, uptake remains low overall. Jon Tennant sets out what the barriers to more widespread adoption of post-publication peer review have been and proposes potential solutions for each.

Writing a peer review is a structured process that can be learned and improved – 12 steps to follow

Peer review not only helps to maintain the quality and integrity of scientific literature but is also key to a researcher’s development. As well as offering opportunities to keep abreast of current research and hone critical analysis skills, writing a peer review can teach you how to spot common flaws in research papers and improve your own chances of being a successful published author. Jo Wilkinson asked an expert panel of researchers what steps they take to ensure a rigorous and robust review. Their advice has been compiled into the following 12 steps, relevant to both first-time peer reviewers and those keen to brush up on their skills.

We have the technology to save peer review – now it is up to our communities to implement it

Jon TennantDaniel Graziotin and Sarah Kearns consider what can be done to address the various shortcomings and problems of the peer review process. While there is obviously substantial scope for improvement, none of the ideas proposed here are beyond our current technical and social means. The key challenge may lie in galvanising our scholarly communities.

Open peer review: bringing transparency, accountability, and inclusivity to the peer review process

Open peer review is moving into the mainstream, but it is often poorly understood and surveys of researcher attitudes show important barriers to implementation. Tony Ross-Hellauer provides an overview of work conducted as part of an OpenAIRE2020 project to offer clarity on OPR, and issues an open call to publishers and researchers interested in OPR to come together to share data and scientifically explore the efficacy of OPR systems as part of an Open Peer Review Assessment Framework.

Our current conceptualisation of peer review must be expanded if we’re to realise the greatest innovations

All agree that peer review is an area of scholarly communications that is ripe for innovation. However, it may be that our current conceptualisation of peer review places limits on our progress and ambitions. Jon Treadway highlights four alternative tracks of development, including an increased recognition of the many diverse contributions to the research process, a renewed and widened understanding of what constitutes a “peer”, and a robust evidence base for which techniques and modes of review most consistently benefit authors and the wider scholarly record.

What are researchers’ expectations and experiences of the peer review process? Findings from recent research

What do researchers expect of the peer review process? And do their experiences deliver on these expectations? Elaine Devine reports on the findings of recent research that sought answers to these questions, to be used to inform improved training, support resources, and guidelines. Researchers feel strongly that peer review should, and mostly does, improve the quality of research articles; that incidences of academic fraud are not detected as much as expected; and that a relatively high prevalence of regional and seniority bias exists in peer review.

Amidst criticism of the peer review process, the valuable contributions of reviewers should be defended

As flaws in the peer review process are highlighted and calls for reform become more frequent, it may be tempting for some to denigrate and dismiss the contributions of the reviewers themselves. Maxine David has been witness to this and here makes an appeal to give space to recognise those who offer their time and expertise voluntarily and generously.

Peer review processes risk stifling creativity and limiting opportunities for game-changing scientific discoveries

Today, academics must prepare written proposals describing the research they wish to conduct and submit them to funding agencies for evaluation – a process known as peer review. According to Don Braben and Rod Dowler, the current peer review process actually serves as a blocker to more radical research, stifling creativity and limiting opportunities for game-changing discoveries. Obviously peer review should not be abandoned entirely, but it is time to recognise the need for a separate category of highly innovative research with appropriate funding.

The next stage of SocArXiv’s development: bringing greater transparency and efficiency to the peer review process

Almost 1,500 papers have been uploaded to SocArXiv since its launch last year. Up to now the platform has operated alongside the peer-review journal system rather than seriously disrupting it. Looking ahead to the next stage of its development, Philip Cohen considers how SocArXiv might challenge the peer review system to be more efficient and transparent, firstly by confronting the bias that leads many who benefit from the status quo to characterise mooted alternatives as extreme. The value and implications of openness at the various decision points in the system must be debated, as should potentially more disruptive innovations such as non-exclusive review and publication or crowdsourcing reviews.

How to survive the cruel world of peer-reviewed funding applications

With government funding and industry support for research either static or falling, the grant funding environment has become increasingly competitive. Most funding goes to those in secure employment who have been in academia for some time, making the outlook particularly grim for early-career researchers. Jonathan O’Donnell sets out some practical advice for early-career researchers competing for grant funding; starting with what can be learnt by serving as a reviewer of applications, how collaborating with others can help, and finally considering what the options are outside of the peer review system. There is also advice for the funding agencies themselves on what they can do to make the process more dynamic and efficient.

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