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Here's what publishers think is hindering peer review

Publons' Global State of Peer Review 2018 is here! Far-reaching and pulling no punches, this largescale report assesses the lay of the research landscape to improve the future of peer review.

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The inaugural report issues a call for collaborative industry action to improve the transparency, diversity, and efficiency of scholarly peer review (you can download it here). As part of that, we spoke with a range of publishers about their thoughts on these issues and we'll be revealing their answers throughout the week.

First up, read on to discover what key representatives at Wiley, SAGE, The British Institute of Radiology, and the Association of University Presses consider the key challenges in peer review right now.

Tami Potten, Editorial Development Manager, The British Institute of Radiology:

The increasingly competitive and rapidly expanding scholarly publishing marketplace, where new journals (both legitimate and predatory) are launching on an almost daily basis, means the volume of articles requiring peer review is growing exponentially. This is putting unprecedented pressure on the pool of available reviewers, who are also facing increasing pressure to fulfill their clinical, academic and research responsibilities. With such pressure on their time, inevitably some tasks will fall by the wayside and voluntary editorial jobs, such as peer review, are likely among the first to go.

Reviewer fatigue is also a key challenge facing scholarly publishing, whereby reliable reviewers can become over-burdened, as editors naturally turn to familiar names in an effort to complete the review process efficiently. These aspects mean finding new, suitable, and willing expert reviewers is imperative.

This is putting unprecedented pressure on the pool of available reviewers, who are also facing increasing pressure to fulfill their clinical, academic, and research responsibilities.

As well as ensuring our existing reviewers feel appreciated and supported, it is vital that we attract new reviewers and particularly early-career scientists who potentially have more time and no lack of enthusiasm for the process. Time pressure, coupled with an increasing pressure to publish, can potentially push researchers towards unethical practices, such as fraudulent peer review and duplicate publications to multiple journals – ensuring the integrity of the peer review process and the resulting scholarly record is vital and an increasing challenge that we cannot fail to meet.

Kristen Marchetti, Associate Director of Peer Review, SAGE:

At SAGE, we believe that rigorous peer review is a crucial component of our role as a Publisher committed to building bridges to knowledge across our business. It is a key mechanism for assessing submitted articles and ensuring the high quality of the content we publish. Over the course of the past decade we’ve been even more focused on identifying and evaluating the challenges in peer review with a view to actively address these issues.

We believe that rigorous peer review is a crucial component of our role as a Publisher committed to building bridges to knowledge across our business.

Some of the main challenges in the peer review process include:

  • Identifying appropriate expert reviewers and sustaining a broad, diverse reviewer pool;
  • Ensuring that the reviewers themselves are equipped with the skills, guidance, and information that they need to provide efficient and constructive reviews;
  • Refining processes to more effectively prevent, detect and address peer review fraud;
  • Implementing measures to reduce the risk of bias in the peer review process;
  • Recognizing the time and effort that individual reviewers spend on completing valuable reviews;
  • Determining how we can increase transparency and trust in the peer review process without compromising confidentiality.
Peter Berkery, Executive Director, Association of University Presses:

I think that for the university press community the largest challenge in relation to peer review is in many ways one that impacts us in a number of areas: we get swept up in broader by broader trends that perhaps don’t really apply to us, or at least don’t apply in the same way. Sometimes, for example, people say “publishers” when they really mean “commercial publishers” or “STEM journal publishers.”

In the context of peer review, this is happening because many of the practices currently in the spotlight primarily affect STEM journals. Peer review for academic monographs is a profoundly different process. While there’s been no serious conversation suggesting material shortcomings in the peer review of monographs, yet deficiencies in peer review elsewhere in scholarly communications get extrapolated globally.

Another important challenge facing peer review across all of scholarly communications – including university presses and academic monographs – is the need for greater diversity in the selection of peer reviewers.

Another important challenge facing peer review across all of scholarly communications – including university presses and academic monographs – is the need for greater diversity in the selection of peer reviewers.

Elizabeth Moylan, iPublisher, Research Integrity and Publishing Ethics, Wiley:

Researchers want to conduct their research efficiently and if they choose to submit their findings for publication to a journal, they want to experience efficient, constructive peer review and a straightforward publishing process. Of course, publishers are fundamentally service providers for the research communities they serve. However, publishers are all too aware that the peer review process can be problematic – it can be slow, inefficient, biased and open to abuse.

Publishers are all too aware that the peer review process can be problematic – it can be slow, inefficient, biased and open to abuse.

However, despite those perceived flaws, peer review is a core part of the research and research communication process. But that does not mean peer review cannot evolve itself. A dedicated team at Wiley are interested in what ‘better peer review’ could look like, with a focus on five key areas:

  • Integrity
  • Ethics
  • Fairness
  • Usefulness
  • Timeliness

They have developed a checklist for journals - a self-assessment tool - so that journals can monitor their own peer review and publishing standards in these key areas and make improvements where necessary.


Publons Global State of Peer Review Report

What does the peer review landscape look like today? Is it getting better or worse? And who's actually doing all the peer review, anyway? We made it part of our Peer Review Week mission to find out.

  • Publons' Global State of peer review report combines:
  • Rich and extensive data from Clarivate Analytic's ScholarOne Manuscripts and Web of Science
  • Data-driven analysis from Publons' exclusive cross-publisher peer review platform
  • Survey responses from ~12,000 researchers around the globe
  • Statistics and insight to reveal the peer uncover the future direction of peer review.

Download the gspr now

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