Researchers know and understand how important it is to have their work, whether it be a grant application or a manuscript submitted for publication, critically reviewed by their peers.Peer review for articles submitted to journals has been around in one form or another since the 17th century and although it has been much criticized in the past, according to the UK house of Commons Science and Technology Committee it 'cannot be dispensed with' (1).
In 2009, when Sense about Science undertook their biggest survey of authors and reviewers, they found that 84% of researchers believed that without peer review there would be no control in scientific communication; 32% however, thought that this control could be done better.
But can peer review be made better?
There have been a number of developments to the tried and tested pre publication single- or double-blind peer review system. Depending on the journal to which you submit, some of the newer approaches adopted or on trial allow your paper to be (for example):
- openly reviewed (authors and reviewers know each others' names)
- put online directly after you submit it and have it reviewed by either the reading community or selected reviewers (or both)
- manuscript reviews can be shared amongst a consortia of journals (e.g. Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium).
And what about you - the reviewer?
At the very heart of the peer review process are the experts who do the reviewing. We know that 90% of you review because you believe in taking an active part in your community (2).
To acknowledge this important role, some journals publish the names of reviewers in the last issue of the year, others award certificates to their best reviewers, while some publishers offer workshops on how to become a reviewer. But is this enough? And if not, what else can be done?
The Elsevier Peer Review Challenge - How do you see the future of peer review?
When faced with big questions, it's always good to ask more questions. And this is what we want to do with peer review in 2012.
We are asking you 'How do you see the future of peer review?' and to do so, we are launching a new online Challenge asking you as reviewers, authors and editors, for ideas on how you think peer review could look.
You can submit your ideas on the review process itself, how reviewers can be rewarded for their reviews and how best young researchers and scientists can learn about and contribute to the review process.
Details of the challenge
It opens at the end of March and everyone signed up to the Reviewers' Update will receive a message letting you know the website name and URL.
- All entries will be judged by an international panel according to a set of criteria which looks at scope, applicability and innovation
- 10 finalists will be hosted on the website for a period of 2 weeks so the community can comment on their idea
- After the 2 weeks, the judges will pick the 1 overall winner who will be awarded $5000 and 2 runners up who will each receive a tablet computer
- The winners will be invited to work on developing their ideas with the Elsevier Innovation team
- Anyone who comments on any one of the 10 finalists on the website will also be entered into a draw for Amazon vouchers
So, let us and the reviewing community know how you see the future of peer review. We will send you your invitation to participate shortly. If you have friends or colleagues who would also like to participate, send them this article and ask them to sign up to the Reviewers' Update here.
(1) House of Commons, Science and Technology Committee (2011) Peer review in scientific communications. Published on 28 July 2011 by authority of the House of Commons London: The Stationery Office Limited http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmsctech/856/856vw.pdf
(2) Sense about Science (2009) Peer Review Survey 2009. http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/peer-review-survey-2009.html
Clare Lehane graduated from University College Cork, Ireland with a PhD in Marine Ecology in 2004 and since then has worked in various aspects of publishing. She has been working with Elsevier since 2006 and is a Publisher on the Energy and Planetary Sciences portfolio.