Peer review has some problems – but the science community is working on it

  • Written by Dr Jessica Borger, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Immunology, Monash University
Peer review has some problems – but the science community is working on it

Peer review is the central foundation of science. It’s a process where scientific results are vetted by academic peers, with publication in a reputable journal qualifying the merits of the work and informing readers of the latest scientific discoveries.

But peer review sometimes gets a bad rap – criticised for a purported lack of transparency, low accountability and even poor scientific rigour.

There’s now considerable movement towards tweaking or even remodelling the peer review system. Key areas of focus include making journal editors more directive in the process, rewarding reviewers, and improving accountability of editors, reviewers and authors.

Read more: Science isn't broken, but we can do better: here's how

Peer review relies on volunteers

The peers in the peer review system are volunteer academics with expertise relevant to the paper being considered. But it’s hard to find suitable volunteers.

Reviewing is more complex and onerous than just rejecting or accepting a manuscript. More often than not, a reviewer suggests additional experiments that authors have overlooked, or challenges the interpretation of some of the data. This initiates a dialogue between author and reviewer aimed at improving the integrity and scientific merit of the paper.

It takes time – at least seven to eight hours per paper done properly, with no remuneration or recognition for the reviewer and hence rarely regarded as a priority in a busy academic schedule. As a result, scientific rigour can be lost when reviews become fast-tracked.

Read more: Not just available, but also useful: we must keep pushing to improve open access to research

On the other extreme, sometimes novice reviewers (perhaps trying to impress the editor) can turn small discrepancies into significant flaws. This presents a breakdown in the fairness of the review process.

Overall, these issues create a limited number of peer reviewers in practise, an outcome that can lead to cronyism.

Delving further into this remaining inadequate pool of reviewers, a significant gender gap is also apparent. Nature reports that less than 20% of its reviewers in 2017 were women.

More accountability from editors

We should demand more of our journal editors.

Editors can become more proactive by rejecting articles that are not at publication standard upon submission, rather than placing the arduous task on a reviewer to be both scientist and copy checker.

To retain and train novice reviewers, clearer evaluation criteria from editors would vastly improve the reliability and quality of submitted papers.

Editors could also engage better in a dynamic dialogue between author and reviewer – digital communication technologies enable real-time global discussions to facilitate streamlined review processes for all involved.

Read more: Bored reading science? Let's change how scientists write

Recognition of reviewers

Traditionally, editors are held up to be a revered part of the peer review process, and reviewers are simply not acknowledged for their contributions. But this is changing.

To promote increased transparency, greater accountability and fairness, open peer review processes list reviewers and editors in addition to authors in each publication.

This is happening now in newly established online journals such as eLife. Independent platform Publons rewards reviewers by listing all peer reviewing and editorial activity to provide evidence of a reviewer’s expert contributions in their field. Publons also runs a reviewer awards program.

Read more: Demasi cleared, but images in science continue to attract intense scrutiny

Similarly, Elsevier has started a “reviewer recognition programme”, extending various rewards and publishing a yearly list acknowledging the contributions of all the reviewers.

This process has been met with criticism by some who insist anonymity guarantees unbiased opinions.

Post- vs pre-publication peer review

It’s now becoming clear that scientific dialogue does not need to stop at the endpoint of publication, and that not all problems within a manuscript may be identified at the time of peer review.

Post-publication peer review in its most validated form, involves a journal such as Frontiers asking academics to perform a published interactive dialogue with authors during the review process, giving a level of accountability and responsibility.

Other journals such as Faculty of 1000 Research, Copernicus and PLOS ONE publish papers with minimal evaluation. This shifts the focus towards post-publication peer review – authors, reviewers and readers critique and comment on the paper to judge its scientific merit in the public domain.

Alternative post-publication peer review platforms such as ScienceOpen invite all scientists registered with digital identifier ORCID to write a review or comment on DOI-linked papers. This facilitates engagement of a large cross-section of the scientific community for dynamic appraisal of a publication’s scientific merit.

Forums such as Pubpeer invite anonymous commentary from anyone in the scientific or general community. This occurs without moderation, openly facilitating the possibility of trolling and abusive behaviour at times culminating in legal action.

Time to try something new?

Peer review is not ready to be retired – but it is primed to change.

A recent trial by eLife intends to radically transform the roles of editor, reviewer and author. According to this model, if a senior editor deems a publication worthy of going to review, this paper immediately qualifies for publication.

Read more: Weakened code risks Australia’s reputation for research integrity

Once under review, an open dialogue between author and reviewers takes place. Upon receipt of reviewers’ recommendations, the authors can decide to continue experiments if advised, retract the paper or publish it. This leaves the author’s decision to the scrutiny of the general scientific community.

This innovation may greatly improve the transparency of open peer review, increase accountability on behalf of all participants and reduce burden on the peer review system. It addresses the three major strategies required for improvement of the peer review system. But is it a step too far, too soon? Time will tell.

The overall goal of debates around peer review and appearance of new publication platforms and approaches is to create a united front of authors, reviewers and editors to uphold scientific integrity.

This is vital not just within academic circles, but also to maintain the reputation of science in the broader community.

Authors: Dr Jessica Borger, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Immunology, Monash University

Read more http://theconversation.com/peer-review-has-some-problems-but-the-science-community-is-working-on-it-99596

Australia Today

10 Unmissable Attractions for first time visitors to Melbourne

News Company

Melbourne, the most fantastic city in Australia! If this is your first ever travel experience in Melbourne, well it is guaranteed that you are never going to forget it. The metropolitan hub has a lot to offer to its visors, both within the city and the outskirts. There are so many attractions tha...

Read more

Grass trees aren't a grass (and they're not trees)

John Patykowski, Plant ecologist, Deakin University

Xanthorrhoea have no real trunk – just tightly packed leaves. CC BY-SASign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here, and suggest a plant we should cover at batb@theconversation.edu.au.Grass trees (genus Xanthorrhoea) look like they were imagined by Dr Seuss. An unmistakable tuft of wi...

Read more

Peter Grimes is a thrilling and moving staging of the great English opera

Trevor Jones, Lecturer in Musical Theatre, Griffith University

Stuart Skelton in the title role of Peter Grimes.Brisbane FestivalReview: Peter Grimes, Brisbane FestivalPeter Grimes, one of the centrepiece events of this year’s Brisbane Festival, is a remarkable collaboration between the festival, Opera Queensland, Philip Bacon AM, the Queensland Performin...

Read more

Michelle Grattan on strawberries, Sudmalis, schools, and the au pair affair

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Michelle Grattan speaks with University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini about the week in politics. They discuss rushed legislation on strawberry contamination, the Liberals continued women problem with Ann Sudmalis’ announcement she won’t recontest her seat, the government’...

Read more

Super. If Labor really wanted to help women in retirement, it would do something else

Brendan Coates, Fellow, Grattan Institute

Labor's plan to pay super to women on paid parental leave would barely boost their retirement incomes.ShutterstockWhen it comes to the gender gap in retirement incomes, symbolism appears to matter more than actually achieving something.Labor’s plan to add super contributions to government-fund...

Read more

Is it time for Australia to be more open about research involving animals?

Tyler Paytas, Research Fellow in Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

Most people never have the chance to see how animals live in laboratories.from www.shutterstock.com The use of animals in scientific research is a complex ethical issue, and these studies typically take place behind closed doors.But since 2012, more than 120 of Britain’s universities, research...

Read more

Holidays & Travel

Things to Do and See in Ballina, Australia

The intricate coastline of New South Wales is renowned for its sumptuous, decadent beaches, hidden resorts and secret camping spots. A long and slow ride down the winding highway that...

Guide to Travel Necessities for 2018

Sure, it sounds like quite an adventure to hit an open road with nothing but a one-way ticket and an open mind, but the harsh reality is – you won’t...

Top Sightseeing Spots in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most fascinating locations for anyone to visit in the world. After all, it’s a place with a variety of unique landscapes, but it isn’t...

Must-Pack Items for a Travel Blogging Boss

As a travel blogger, you get to see and explore so many wonderful destinations and meet various interesting people, but before you embark on a new adventure you need to...

Luxury Camping Adventures Around the World

Perhaps in direct response to the dominance of technology in the modern world, many travelers are feeling a strong draw towards nature. While some are able to fully embrace their...

Dredging works underway Plantation Island

Tourists and workers travelling to popular tourist destination Plantation Island, Fiji, are set to benefit from safer access when marine channel dredging is completed at the end of June 2018...

Top 5 Tips for Traveling With Dogs

Travelling with your dog can be thrilling, but sometimes it can turn into a real nuisance. Unless you know how to properly restrain the pooch, whether it’ll be able to...

Top Island Destinations for 2018

When we picture island destinations in our minds, we often imagine a tropical beach of white sand, a sun lounger laid out in the shade of a line of palm...

Why Car Rental Excess Insurance is a Smart Choice

Some car rental agencies include basic damage cover in the standard rental fee, with the option to add on liability reduction, or excess insurance. The addition of excess insurance normally...

Fashion & Beauty

Groom To Do List

Sorry Aussie Men, you no longer just pay for the alcohol, flowers and marriage license. Times have certainly changed. Wedding Expert shares what Australian Grooms are now expected to do before...

Simple Secrets To A More Confident Smile

We all know just how important first impressions are. After a handshake, what’s one of the first things people will notice about you? It’s your smile. A friendly smile is...

Improve Your Body Confidence and Feel Great

No matter how good you feel about yourself, sometimes you just can’t help but see a few little flaws that seem gigantic to you and make you feel self-conscious. Whether...

First-Timer Tips For Your First Lip Filler Appointment

Getting injectable lip fillers can be a quick and effective way to plump up your smile with minimal drama. They’re a cost-effective and safe way to boost the natural shape...

The Most Common Skin Conditions and How to Deal with Them

We often underestimate the importance of our skin, but as the largest organ in our body, and our primary layer of defense, it is constantly affected by many environmental factors...

Beach Babe Basics: Everything You Need to Look Stylish at the Beach

Summer is right around the corner, and this year, we all should make the best of it. Right now, it is not just about looking stylish on the streets, it...

HEALTH

Virectin Reviews and Results (LATEST) - Honest Review

Virectin is a potent, natural male enhancement supplement, recommended to all those who are interested in improving their sexual performance. According to the manufacturers, it can provide a positive effect...

How to Choose the Best Lasik Surgeon?? It’s as easy as it can get!

Whether you have had a vision problem since childhood, or you have developed one recently, eye surgeries are the answer to all your problems. It can be anything, ranging from...

Laser Liposuction: The Myths and Facts

Laser liposuction is a revolutionary new way to get rid of unwanted fat without the downtime experienced with traditional liposuction. This procedure offers a number of amazing benefits and is...

How To Show Your Elderly Relatives Love

At every stage of our lives, there’s one thing we truly need above all else: love. As our elderly parents, grandparents, or other relatives we care about grow older, it...

9 Ways to Recognize the Early Signs of Dementia

Dementia is a condition that is, unfortunately, very present among our elderly population. What makes this fact even worse is that, in spite of our best intentions and will to...

Co-Occurring Disorders and Overcoming Addiction

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to the combination of substance abuse and the presence of a mental disorder.  Many individuals who enter treatment for substance abuse are...

LIFE STYLE

Should You Repair Or Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit?

Whenever the summer arrives to the hilt and you feel that your air conditioning isn’t up to the mark, there is always one question that pops up into your mind...

6 Rug Trends That Will Boost Style and Comfort in Your Home

If you want to break up that boring and colorless look of your home, one of the easiest and quickest ways is to throw in a rug! Check out these...

Put your problems to rest with Antenna Genie

When the idea of television was first being tested, Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox famously remarked that “no one would want to stare at a plywood box every night”...

Top 5 Design Trends in Commercial Interior

Commercial buildings include offices, restaurants, hotels, etc. and their design can play a crucial role in all the important aspects of a business such as brand reinforcement, customer engagement and...

Add a little colour to your move - and life!

How a little ‘colour’ and planning can take your Move, and make it a more enjoyable one Colour plays a huge role in our lives, it can take us up, or...

6 Simple Rules for Redesigning Your Kitchen

How do you feel about your kitchen? Well, if you feel like your home needs a bit of lifting up, one of the best and most effective places to start...

FOOD & DINING

Morning greens: the breakfast skincare regime

It’s safe to assume that most Aussies fail to eat enough greens. Although this was momentarily resolved with the rise and popularity of the green juice movement, the lack of...

Best Hidden Gem Hong Kong Restaurants

You finally find yourself enjoying the endless beauties of China and this fascinating city. In a place with so much variety, all your senses will be wide awake, and your...

JOHNNY DI FRANCESCO NAMED OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR OF EAT STREET MELBOURNE

Johnny Di Francesco, world champion pizzaiolo and owner of Melbourne’s Gradi Group of restaurants, is excited to announce he has been named official ambassador for Eat Street Melbourne 2018. As Ambassador...

The best Mother's Day gift EVER!

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...

Sing for Your Supper at Chargrill Charlie’s

To celebrate the final curtain call of the Barden Bellas, Chargrill Charlie’s is giving you the chance to Sing for your Supper! Show off your best acapella vocals to win...

MAKE IT WINE TIME, ANY TIME

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...