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Published Peer Review: 1 Year Across PLOS

Last May, PLOS announced a new option for authors to publish their peer review history, and the support from our communities has been loud and clear. Since our update 6 months ago, we’ve jumped from 800 to over 3,500 articles with published peer review history!

Why Publish Peer Review

Opening access to the reviewer comments benefits readers who wish to dive deeper into a specific study. Comments from experts who reviewed the article that would traditionally remain unseen helps contextualize the research. Upcoming researchers can get a glimpse behind the curtains and see what sort of requests authors in their field were asked to address during revisions. If an author chooses to publish both a preprint and their peer review history, the process from first draft to final article can be learned from. 

Those involved in the peer review process also benefit, as the potential for reviews to be made public further fosters an environment where authors, editors, and reviewers respectfully collaborate to deliver the best possible manuscript for their community.

Our First Year Publishing Peer Review

By leaving the decision to opt-in for published peer review history with authors, we’ve seen a steady 39% opt-in rate among eligible manuscripts across all of PLOS. Of those 3,500 publications that agreed to participate in the last year, 60% have at least one signed review! 

With this increased number of publications with peer review history under our belt, we’ve continued to see the highest opt-in rates in our journals publishing work in health or life-sciences. 

Within PLOS ONE, Oral Health (57%), Clinical Trials (51%), and Women’s Health (51% and 67 opt-ins) lead the pack in terms of opt-in percentage for subjects with over 20 opt-ins. We’re ecstatic to see so many articles dealing with public health providing access to expert reviewer opinions to further validate the studies.

Choosing to Collaborate

We believe authors and reviewers should be in control of how their work is portrayed. Reviewers are given the choice to sign their comments, and authors choose to opt-in when they’ve received and had an opportunity to respond to all reviewer feedback, and their paper has been accepted. 

Through this system, both roles work in tandem to drive a transition to more diverse, transparent peer review options. A reviewer who signs their name and provides substantial comments backed by evidence may entice an author to opt-in and have the reviewer’s comments published. 

Alternatively, an author may entice a reviewer to sign their name if their paper is already participating in other aspects of open science, such as publishing a preprint or sharing data and code in a repository. Regardless of your role on a specific paper, you have the choice with PLOS to enact transparency in peer review.

The Transforming Landscape of Open Review

Different forms of Open Review are taking hold and changing the evaluation process. Preprint commenting and other opportunities are being realized due to the shift in research attitudes. The greater research community is more accepting than ever to Open Review concepts such as portable peer review (reviews that can be transferred across journals) or Review Commons, a platform providing independent peer review prior to journal submission. 

Recognizing the essential role of peer review, reviewers have more opportunities to claim credit for their difficult and constructive work. These changes are all opportunities for researchers to cultivate transparency in peer review and, across all sectors of science, improve context and trust.

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