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Infographic captures how researchers really feel about the peer-review process

More than 2,000 researchers from a variety of disciplines contributed to a survey conducted by Elsevier and PRC (Publishing Research Consortium)

As one of our activities to celebrate Peer Review Week 2016 (19-25 September), we thought it would be interesting to dig a little deeper into some of our recent research into the topic.

In 2015, Elsevier's Customer Insights team partnered with the PRC (Publishing Research Consortium) to measure the attitudes of researchers to peer review in scholarly communication. The study followed similar ones undertaken in 2007, 2009 and 2013. The responses to the 2015 survey were analyzed by Mark Ware Consulting, and below you will find the infographic we have created from his report, along with a few of the key findings.

Click on the infographic to view a full size-version

Key findings

  • Satisfaction with peer review is unchanged compared with 2007. It is most effective at improving the quality of research papers, but is less effective at detecting fraud; although peer review is perceived to have improved at detecting fraud over the last two years, it still falls short of expectations.
  • There remains a strong preference for traditional forms of peer review (single and double blind), though younger researchers are more willing to submit to (and review for) journals using more open forms of peer review, as are researchers specializing in Computer Science.
  • When articles are not initially accepted for publication in a journal, most researchers (73 percent) agree that their paper was improved by the peer-review process. This is especially true for early career researchers.
  • For reviewers, participating in peer review is seen as an obligation one must undertake as an active participant of the research community. Early career researchers and those from China are more likely than average to have personal motivations to review; for example, to advance their career, improve the likelihood their future papers will be accepted for publication and improve their chances of being offered an editorial role.
  • More than one quarter of researchers (28 percent) agreed that ‘peer review is unsustainable because there are too few willing reviewers’, which is up from 19 percent in 2009.
  • Of the 84 percent of researchers that have reviewed a paper in the last 2-3 years, most (75 percent) reviewed 1-2 per month and spent around 5 hours on each review. The main reasons for not reviewing were being busy generally (46 percent), or because the paper was outside their area of expertise (35 percent). It is worth nothing that the latter is far less of a concern than it was in 2009 (58 percent).

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