For the last 5 years, September has brought us Peer Review Week, which this year starts on September 16th. Each Peer Review Week is a great opportunity for organizations and invested individuals to share insights and resources, and this year CSE and Science Editor have several events and articles planned, including a free webinar (see below) and an in-depth article (posting 9/16) from a team at Nature Research outlining a few recent initiatives at their journals designed to improve the quality of peer review.
“Quality” happens to be the theme of this year’s Peer Review Week and there is sure be a wealth of discussion about maintaining and improving the quality of peer review and of the research published in those peer-reviewed articles.
But for this newsletter, I want to highlight the people responsible for ensuring manuscripts receive a high-quality review. Peer reviewers themselves are essential, of course (I mean it’s in the name), but there is a tendency among some to think of peer review as a self-organizing phenomenon: manuscripts appear, qualified reviewers flock to them, provide timely feedback, and authors revise accordingly. Except in practice, almost none of that happens on its own: authors need support throughout the submission and revision process and expert reviewers need to be found, invited, and reminded to submit reviews. Manuscripts and reviews need to be checked, and rechecked, and moved expertly through to publication.
That support and guidance—that quality check—is provided by dedicated editors and staff. Journals work with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of peer reviewers each year, but it’s the editors and staff that provide consistency, find these experts, know the policies, and ensure that what needs to happen, actually happens.
We’re also seeing more journals and organizations take the lead in training the next generation of peer reviewers. Great reviewers are made, not born, but reviewer training can be scarce and certainly not distributed in any way that could be called equitable. For that reason, it’s encouraging to see programs like the one described by Emma Shumeyko in her recent article, Engaging Early Career Scientists with Hands-On Peer Review: A Journal Review Club.
A benefit of the type of face-to-face program Emma outlines is that it also introduces potential reviewers and authors to editors and staff, giving them a window into other aspects of the process. Authors, reviewers, editors, and staff working in harmony is essential to ensure the publication of high-quality peer reviewed research so the more they all understand each other, the better.
Editor-in-Chief, Science Editor
Resource of the Month
Being an editor and working at scientific publication requires being ever knowledgeable of a rapidly changing scientific and publishing landscape, so each month we highlight a resource that will hopefully make this at least a little bit easier.
As noted, CSE will be providing a free Peer Review Week webinar on Thursday, Sept 19 at 1pm ET on Maintaining Quality Peer Review When Submission Trends and Journal Structures Change.
Many journals and publishers seem to be in a near-constant state of flux, and yet editors and staff are tasked with keeping the quality of peer review consistent. To that end, this webinar will “discuss the pragmatic best practices needed for maintaining quality peer review when journals undergo structural changes and workflow adjustments”. I know I’ll be watching and taking notes.
New Issue: Summer 2019
The Summer 2019 issue posted online and mailed last month, so I hope every member received and are enjoying their copy. Two articles from that issue deal specifically with peer review, and open peer review in particle: My Viewpoint, Memories Regained: On Opening up Peer Review, and a Feature by the TRANSPOSE team on Opening Up Peer-Review Policies. I’ve highlighted both articles recently, and I hope they spark some conversations about transparency in peer review at your journals.
Hot Articles from Recent Issues (For CSE Members only)
As a CSE member benefit, once Science Editor articles are moved to an issue, they are available only to CSE Members for one year.
I’m still processing everything I learned about peer review at the CSE 2019 Annual Meeting back in May. Two relevant meeting reports published in the recent Summer 2019 issue offer some helpful tricks and tips for Providing the Right Resources for Reviewers and also how to use Data-Driven Best Practices in the Editorial Office to improve the peer review process for everyone.
Not a CSE member? Additional membership info along with instructions for becoming a member of the Council of Science Editors can be found here.
From the Archives
Two years ago, Lenny Teytelman weighed in on what reviewer’s should be allowed to do with their confidential peer reviews: As a Reviewer, Each Review is Yours, and Sometimes It Should Be Everyone’s. In the article he argues that there are times when a reviewer should consider making their originally confidential review of a published article public when its thought that it might be helpful to the scientific community and the long-term scientific record.
“Won’t somebody please think of the authors?”
In my job and for Science Editor, I spend a lot of time researching ways to improve the quality of peer review and published research. Many of those improvements come with additional author requirements: more data, more checklists, more transparency, more… stuff. At times I am reminded of this Perspective from a group of academic researchers published last year in Science Editor: The Painful Publishing Process: A Request to Simplify Bureaucratic Requirements. In it, they discuss the burden placed on authors when too much is requested of them, especially at first submission when it’s not even clear that a journal is interested in their manuscript. As we improve the peer review and publication process, I think it is important to consider how it affects authors and how we can make the process easier for them while still being rigorous.
Feedback and suggestions are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also always looking for new submissions or article suggestions you may have; for more details, see our Information for Authors.