What In Review shows us about peer review

The Source
By: Scott Epstein, Tue Sep 17 2019
Scott Epstein

Author: Scott Epstein

For Peer Review Week, I wanted to look at what the Editorial Timeline on the In Review service (developed with Research Square) can show us about peer review—specifically, about the timeliness and efficiency aspects of quality in peer review. Please see—and stream or download—the more expanded, podcast version of this blog post:

podcast version 

For those not familiar, Peer Review Week—now in its fifth year—is a global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining research quality. The event brings together individuals, institutions, and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review is critical to scholarly communications.

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The In Review service is more than the Research Square preprint platform that encompasses it (although it includes all of those benefits as well). In Review shows all of us all of the steps that go on during review. We can see when journal Editors have invited reviewers, when they’ve accepted, when the reviews arrive, what the outcome is, etc.

This year’s Peer Review Week theme is quality in peer review. And while that can mean the quality of reviewer reports (and many of our journals currently on In Review also have transparent peer review and publish their reviewer reports), I think it can also mean the quality of the efficiency of peer review, and In Review’s Editorial Timeline can really illustrate that. 

You can see that by looking at this graphic; or by visiting a recent article on the platform—Leukoencephalopathia, demyelinating peripheral neuropathy and dural ectasia explained by a not formerly described de novo mutation in the SAMD9L gene, ends 27 years of investigations—A case report,” for example. (Please note that the image below is not from the article named above, but does illustrate the Editorial Timeline.)

In Review Editorial Timeline © Springer Nature

With this article, you can trace the whole history from first submission on January 23, 2019 through acceptance on April 26, 2019, including two version revisions. By documenting all the steps (and timing) of the peer review process—from recruiting reviewers, to their bottom-line recommendations, to the final Editorial decision—we get a record of what happened, when. But more than that—we built community commenting features into In Review’s foundation; and the editorial timeline also reveals the track record of community comments.

In the meantime, by documenting the whole peer review timeline, In Review is one of the approaches to opening up the “black box” of the editorial process. I think that, added to more editorial and review transparency, systems and platforms like In Review, and showing all the Editors’ and reviewers’ work that goes into taking a manuscript submission to final article. And I (for one) hope that as more of this process comes to light, peer reviewers will get more of the recognition for their efforts they profoundly deserve. 

Scott Epstein

Author: Scott Epstein

Before moving to Author Experience and Services, Scott Epstein marketed journals and books across all of Springer Nature, including Springer’s materials science and physics books and journals, and BMC and SpringerOpen’s largest math and materials science journals.  

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