Yesterday I signed an open letter on behalf of all PLOS journals, alongside 20 other editors representing over 100 publications, to commit to offering transparent peer review options.
Support for publication of reviewer reports has been mounting as part of a greater effort to inform the discussion on peer review practice. Our joint commitment to transparent peer review comes on the heels of a meeting we attended earlier this year organized by HHMI, The Wellcome Trust and ASAPbio. Funders, editors, and publishers came together and agreed that elevating the visibility of peer review is paramount for informed scholarly discussion and early career development. Context for the initiatives is provided today in a Nature commentary.
We are excited to be working alongside so many other journals eager to bring posted reviews to our communities and to help change the way in which we talk about and understand peer review.
How it works
Our approach is to let authors and reviewers decide what level of transparency is right for them on a case by case basis. Authors will choose whether to make the peer review history public at the end of the assessment process for their manuscript. Reviewers will decide whether to reveal their identities or remain anonymous. We encourage authors and reviewers to experiment with the new options.
What’s in it for researchers?
Transparent peer review is a critical first step towards elevating peer review reports as recognized scholarly outputs.
We plan to post peer reviews with a DOI so that it can be cited in the contributor’s CV or referenced as the foundation for further discussion of the work. This is especially critical for early career researchers to be able to demonstrate their varied contributions to their field.
We hope that deeper insight into peer review will strengthen understanding of the scientific record and help future generations of researchers learn about the assessment process.
Ready for change
Before making our decision, we asked our communities what they thought of transparent peer review and surveyed the feedback from other journals that have already implemented or experimented with different forms of transparent review.
In a 2017 survey of our reviewers, 87% of participants said they would be fine with posted reviews. Of the remaining 13%, many indicated that they felt this decision should be left up to the authors, a concern that we’ve taken into account by allowing authors to decide whether they want to publish their peer reviews or not (according to another survey, 45% of them do).
Other journals who offer to post anonymous reviews, including Nature Communications, eLife, and The EMBO Journal, saw little to no difference in reviewer participation rates after implementing similar policies.
We’ll share what we learn
While transparent peer review isn’t a new concept, it hasn’t yet been widely adopted. With over 23,000 research articles published each year in the PLOS family of journals, there is an opportunity for us to affect meaningful change in the way scholarly communities in all disciplines learn about and understand peer review.
We are excited to offer transparent peer review to our contributors. As we move forward, we’ll be analyzing our processes, gathering data, and listening to feedback from our contributors in order to report back to the community.