Peer Review

Streamlined peer-review process piloted by several Elsevier journals

This new initiative has led to a drop in the number of new reviewer reports being requested for resubmissions

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Peer review is widely accepted as an essential, if not the essential component, in the scientific publication process. Nevertheless, the peer review process can be costly for everyone involved in it, not least for reviewers. Preparing thoughtful and detailed reviews is enormously time-consuming for reviewers.  For authors, obtaining written reviews from qualified reviewers can be the cause of much of the delay in getting their papers published. Adding to the process is the high rejection rates common among top journals, whereby the same article often goes through multiple review processes before finding an appropriate home to be published in.  Multiple review processes add to the workload for reviewers and editors, and for authors it means a (frustrating) need to respond to a completely new set of reviewers.

Journal of research in personalityTo help address these issues, two Elsevier journals have piloted a streamlined review process. The Journal of Research in Personality (JRP) initiated a streamlined review process in 2006. They allow authors to submit, together with their manuscript, the reviewer reports of the journal that has previously rejected the same manuscript. For JRP, this is limited to a set of high-profile society journals that are well respected in the field.  Often these journals reject papers for reasons aside from quality, for example, they include only a single study, use unconventional methods, or are on the periphery of traditional areas of inquiry. JRP seeks to publish innovative, high quality research and as they may not be limited by these same restrictions, papers rejected by the selected "feeder" journals may be suitable for publication. Authors are strongly advised to take the original reviewing reports into consideration and improve their manuscript based on those comments before submission to JRP.  The Editor of JRP may take a decision based on the submitted reviewer reports, or invite one additional reviewer for comments (compared to 2-3 reviewers evaluating "regular" submissions to the journal).

When looking back at the impact of this initiative on JRP data shows that streamline reviews has attracted high quality papers, whilst improving turnaround times. The average rejection rate for streamline review papers (2007 to 2013 YTD) has been 53%, compared to an average rejection rate of 77% for other papers and average lifetime citations, in this same period, have been 11.4 for streamline reviews articles as compared to 7.5 for other papers. Turnaround times also have a positive story to tell with average submission to first decision for streamline review papers having been 2.4 weeks as compared to 8 weeks for other papers.

Data for Journal of Research in Personality (2007-2013 YTD)

VirologyIn 2013, Virology introduced its own initiative, which has the aim of capturing and publishing papers that have been rejected by journals with high Impact Factors. The idea came from one of Virology's editors who described the frustration for authors of needing to respond to a completely new set of reviewers when resubmitting a rejected paper from one high-impact journal to another.  The resubmitting process also places an added burden on a valuable pool of reviewers.

In Virology's streamline review programme, if an author has a paper that has been reviewed and rejected by a high-impact journal, (with an Impact Factor higher than 8, such as Cell Host & Microbe or Nature), they can submit the original reviews, their rebuttal and a revised paper to Virology, including the extra items as part of their cover letter. Virology's editors then consider the paper based on the existing reviews and usually send the paper, reviews and response to an additional expert for an opinion.  The streamline review programme therefore reduces the pressure on the peer review system with fewer new reviewer reports being requested for resubmissions.

An article on Virology's Streamline Reviews programme was first published in ElsevierConnect (17 July 2013)Elsevier Connect

Elsevier Connect is a daily online magazine for the science and health communities with a broad and active social media community. It features articles written by experts in the field as well as Elsevier colleagues

Virology's Editor-in-Chief, Dr Michael Emerman, is enthusiastic about the introduction of Streamline Reviews and Michael Emerman
though new, he believes it will be well received. He said: 

"The program is still in its infancy. We have received a handful of Streamline Review submissions, but we believe more papers will be submitted this way once the initiative becomes better known. What has been interesting is the very positive feedback we have received from editorial board members and community members, many of whom have experienced the long process of resubmitting a very good manuscript that has just missed the mark at a high-impact journal. In fact, they wonder why Streamline Reviews is not already standard practice amongst journals." 


Author biography

Dr. Irene Kanter-SchlifkeIrene has been with Elsevier since 2008, first as Publisher for Pharmacology/Pharmaceutical Sciences journals and more recently as Executive Publisher in Psychology & Cognitive Science. She studied Biology at the University of Vienna, Austria, where she achieved her Master of Science degree, and the Science University of Montpellier. She worked on clinical phase I trials at the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Vienna General Hospital before going on to complete her PhD at the Section of Restorative Neurology at Lund University, Sweden. Prior to Elsevier she worked as a Medical Information Specialist at Janssen Biologicals B.V. in Leiden, Alina HelslootNetherlands.


Alina joined Elsevier in 2008 as Publishing Editor for Microbiology and Biotechnology. She is currently Senior Publisher for Microbiology and is focused on working with editors, authors and reviewers to increase the impact of articles and expand their outreach. She initiated Article Usage Reports, a new service that provides researchers with insights about the usage statistics of their paper, and offers easy-to-use tools for promoting their paper via social media.

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