Trends in contemporary peer review
In recent years, the traditional peer review model has faced challenges from new, innovative approaches aimed at addressing some of the limitations and concerns associated with peer review. These approaches include:
Open peer review
In his Systematic Review, Ross-Hellauer defines open peer review as ‘‘an umbrella term for a number of overlapping ways that peer review models can be adapted in line with the aims of Open Science.’’ Most open peer review models publish the peer review reports and/or reviewer identities openly making the whole process fully transparent as opposed to the more traditional double-blind review. This approach is intended to increase accountability, reduce bias, and enhance the transparency of the review process.
Some publishers are already operating an open peer review model. For example, a number of peer-reviewed journals offered by Nature, including Nature Communications, have an open reports model which is optional for some of their journals where authors can opt in and mandatory in others. Published journal articles with open reports contain a section for peer review which lists the name of the reviewers who choose to be identified and credits other anonymous reviews.
BMJ is an example of a journal that uses both open identities and open reports as part of its publishing model. Every published paper is a peer review tab that provides a PDF copy of the article’s history. The initial peer review reports and the reviewer’s identities are available in the first decision file, and one can view the author’s responses to these in the author response PDF as well.
Articles published on F1000 publishing venues have both open identities and open reports, the latter of which directly determines the peer review outcome of an article. The peer review history is available in an open peer review bar and it includes the reviewers names and affiliations. When a report is published, it is immediately available to authors and readers.
A preprint is a full-text version of a scholarly or scientific publication that is typically made available online before it undergoes formal peer review. Preprint servers, such as arXiv, bioRxiv, and SocArXiv are online repositories that allow authors to post such early versions of their paper.
As publication times can be lengthy in traditional scholarly publishing, preprint servers give researchers the chance to share their work a lot quicker. Preprints are often assigned a digital object identifier (DOI) ensuring readers can reliably locate the source.
While preprints accelerate the dissemination of knowledge, they also raise questions about the quality and credibility of research shared in this manner.
Some publishers have experimented with post-publication review, where articles are published first and then reviewed by the scientific community. Public Library of Science (PLOS) has been a proponent of post-publication peer review, which allows for ongoing evaluation and discussion of research after publication. BMJ’s former Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Fiona Godlee has supported the concept of post-publication peer review, arguing that this approach can allow for real-time feedback, help identify errors, improve research quality, and facilitate ongoing scholarly discourse.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are being explored to assist in the peer review process. These technologies have the potential to aid in identifying potential issues in manuscripts, evaluating the quality of research, and suggesting suitable reviewers.
Peer review has come a long way from its informal beginnings in ancient Greece to the structured, rigorous process we know today. While it has faced challenges and criticisms, it remains a vital tool for ensuring the quality and credibility of scientific research. As we continue to advance in the digital age, the peer review process is likely to evolve further, adapting to the changing landscape of scholarly communication.
Whatever the future holds, peer review will continue to play a crucial role in the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of human understanding. In an era of rapid scientific progress, open access, and global collaboration, peer review stands as a testament to the enduring commitment to excellence in scientific publishing. It is both a gatekeeper and a beacon guiding the way toward the discovery and dissemination of knowledge that shapes our world.