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Data-driven journal feedback is a gift

25 de abril de 2024

Por Louise Hall

Photo by Sean Anthony Eddy/E+ via Getty Images

Photo by Sean Anthony Eddy/E+ via Getty Images

How Elsevier-published journals are using the feedback of authors, reviewers and editors to improve their performance

Each year, Elsevier collects over 180,000 online questionnaire responses from authors, reviewers and journal editors globally in what may be the largest and most comprehensive feedback program of its kind in STM publishing.

Covering all parts of the publishing process, this feedback provides great insight into which areas work well and which should be targeted for improvement. Moreover, it gives each participating journal a sense of how it fares relative to comparable journals in its field. (Note: The surveys are carefully managed to ensure that no individual is contacted more than once every six months, regardless of the frequency of their authoring and reviewing activities.)

The evolution of our feedback programs

Elsevier’s Author Feedback Program (AFP) launched in 1999 with paper questionnaires sent to authors of a small pilot group of journals. Our colleagues quickly recognized the value of gathering feedback, and they extended the program to cover most Elsevier journals via an online survey platform.

Today, corresponding authors of primary research articles receive an invitation to complete the survey within a fortnight of their article publication. This functionality and timing mean that in addition to giving feedback, authors can ask for someone to contact them regarding any outstanding issues with their article.

In 2005, the Editor Feedback Program (EFP) and Reviewer Feedback Program (RFP) made their debuts. The EFP targets those editors who have direct relationships with the publishing and journal management staff at Elsevier. As well as gathering feedback, it can be instrumental in starting conversations about any difficulties experienced by editors.

The third key set of contributors to journals are reviewers. The RFP gathers feedback on their experience, and aggregated reports can be shared both with editors and with relevant Elsevier teams, such as those that oversee our Editorial Manager submissions system.

The most recent addition — the Unsuccessful Submissions Feedback Program (USFP) — focuses on authors who have received a rejection. Their feedback is key for developing strategies to help find a home for all valid articles, an objective that underpins our Article Transfer Service.

Feedback programs inform strategy

The results from the surveys are used for a multitude of reasons, from determining strategies for a journal or journal portfolio to using aggregated feedback to prioritize more general journal development and improvement initiatives.

“The feedback programs provide an excellent way for us to take stock and assess how we are performing in the eyes of our key stakeholders,” said Ginny Pittmanse abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana, Executive Publisher in Health and Medical Sciences at Elsevier. “From there, we can adapt our journal strategy and the submission journey to ensure we continue to meet the needs of our author, reviewer and editor communities.”

Beyond their value at an individual journal level, the programs have also proven to be hugely insightful when used to check the effect of a new initiative across all sets of contributors. According to Bahar Mehmanise abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana, Elsevier’s Peer Review Innovation Lead:

Feedback from the USFP told us that if rejected, authors appreciate a speedy decision as well as detailed, constructive feedback that enables them to make necessary changes before submitting again. In response, Elsevier has launched a structured peer review pilot: Reviewers receive a set of questions to answer about the articles they review to help them give authors the feedback they desire. In initial journal pilots, this has also helped improve the average review times.

Bahar Mehmani

Bahar Mehmani

As the pilot progresses, it will be possible to segment the feedback program scores for the pilot journals to see how the ratings change — both for the authors receiving the new reports and for the reviewers completing them.

The topic of structured peer review was recently featured in this article in Naturese abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana.

Learn more

To find out more about the journal feedback program — and how your journal can adopt structured peer review — please contact your publisher at Elsevier.



Louise Hall

Senior Research Manager