Peer Review Week 2018: ESE Article Special

It’s Peer Review Week 2018!

To help celebrate, we have compiled a mix of eight essays and original articles from our European Science Editing archives that address topics around peer review, starting with an essay on the advantages of peer review to researchers by Gaurav Saini from earalier this year.

We also have papers on peer review policies, training opportunities for young reviewers; the effects of negative reviews on researchers’ emotions and motivation, the model of cascading peer review, a detailed investigation into the relationships between duration of review and reviewer recommendations on the final decision; a critique of the peer review process and suggestions of improvements; and finally the popular recent article providing rules, resources and an assessment of the efficacy of a peer review card game to help with training.

There are many events happening online and in-pereson during Peer Review Week. Check out the website for information and listings:

The art of reviewing journal articles and its advantages for reviewers
Gaurav Saini
Issue: 44(1) February 2018. Essays
Peer-review is one of the pillars of academic publishing and helps editors in selecting the best works. Reviewers serve as a jury that evaluates submitted manuscripts and helps fellow researchers to improve their work. Unfortunately, detailed instructions or dedicated courses for the best practices in manuscript reviewing are scarce. Then how should one go about reviewing a manuscript? More importantly, why should one serve as a reviewer? The aim of this essay is to answer both these questions by providing a step-by-step procedure for manuscript review and a list of advantages of being a reviewer.

Where can early career researchers learn how to peer review a scientific paper?
Mariana Pinto da Costa, José Oliveira, Jibril Abdulmalik
Issue: 44(1) February 2018. Original articles
Background: The ability to peer review a scientific paper is an important skill for researchers, but many early career researchers do not obtain relevant training. In this article, we aimed to identify and describe the different resources available for researchers to learn how to peer review.
Methods: We conducted a web-based search, looking for resources that teach how to peer review. In addition, we contacted authors who published with the terms “peer review” or “early career researchers”, enquiring about the resources they were acquainted with. We used a SWOT framework to analyse the resources with a direct focus on practical teaching of peer review and widespread availability.
Results: We found seven formats of resources available: practical structured peer review training courses; online guidelines; online webinars/videos; journal clubs of post-publication reviews; critical appraisal meetings of pre-publication reviews; editorial board experiences and support from supervisors/mentors. The authors contacted described the main purpose of each resource and how directly they focused on the purpose of teaching competencies to peer review. These resources also vary in their format: either online or face-to-face, independently or in a group. Only one resource was directly focused on practically teaching how to peer review and was readily available online at no cost.
Conclusions: The utilization of these resources may be the answer to the expressed needs of the academic community to see support for peer review in place, guiding early career researchers on how to peer review and addressing the current difficulties that editors face in finding reviewers.

Composition of editorial boards and peer review policies of Croatian journals indexed in Web of Science and Scopus
Ana Utrobičić, Josip Šimić, Mario Malički, Matko Marušić, Ana Marušić
Issue: 40(2) May 2014. Original articles
Croatia, when compared to its neighbouring countries, has the largest number of journals per scientist and per Gross Domestic Product. The aim of our study was to evaluate the composition of editorial structures and transparency of peer review policies of Croatian journals indexed in Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus. Our study showed a lack of transparency of peer review processes in Croatian scientific journals as described in publicly available information for authors. More research is needed to determine the impact of the editorial structures and work on the international recognition of journals from small scientific communities, such as Croatia.

Editorials and cascading peer review
Ernesto Galbán-Rodríguez Elfos, Ricardo Arencibia-Jorge
Issue: 40(2) May 2014. Essays

The article overviews the structure of editorial articles that is important for maintaining the quality of journal editing and publishing. Special attention is paid to properly evaluating reference lists of editorials, avoiding unethical practices of journal self-citations, and boosting impact factors. We have suggested upgrading standards of cascading peer review and publishing editorials after several rounds of rigorous internal and external evaluations

Relationship between the duration of peer-review, publication decision, and agreement among reviewers in three Chilean journals
Omar Sabaj, José O. Valderrama, Carlos González-Vergara, Álvaro Pina-Stranger
Issue: 41(4) November 2015. Original articles
Aim: To investigate the relationship between time taken for peer review, publication decision, and level of agreement among reviewers.
Methods: The average time for eight stages of the peer review process was estimated for 369 peer review processes of three international Chilean journals published in Spanish in the fields of the humanities, engineering and university teaching. According to the combination of recommendations made by reviewers, each process was classified as having total, partial or low agreement. Data for each stage were grouped according to level of agreement and decision type.
Results: Total peer review time was greater for articles that were accepted. For all three of the journals examined, publication period was the longest stage, and time taken to select referees was longest for the humanities journal. Partial agreement between reviewers was related to longer publication times in the university teaching journal, while there was no relationship between reviewer agreement and publication time in the engineering journal.
Conclusions: Duration of the peer review process was related to decision type. Relationship between level of agreement between reviewers and the duration of the various stages of the publication process was found to vary between disciplines.

How do authors feel when they receive negative peer reviewer comments? An experience from Chinese biomedical researchers
Kakoli Majumder
Issue: 42(2) May 2016. Original articles

Background: Peer review is at the heart of academic publishing and has long been instrumental in bringing good science to the forefront. Peer reviewer comments provide authors with valuable suggestions to improve their manuscript; thus, even a rejected manuscript with constructive reviewer comments is highly valuable. However, peer reviewer comments can sometimes be negative, rather than constructive, damaging authors’ motivation and confidence levels.
Objective: This study aims to make editors and peer reviewers aware of how negative reviewer comments can affect authors, and suggests ways to ensure that peer review is constructive.
Methods: Through a discussion on DXY, an online community for biomedical researchers in China, authors were asked to share their experiences with negative reviewer comments; 99 participants responded. Separately, similar questions were posted on two other online communities, Academia Stack Exchange and Quora, yielding 11 responses. These responses were analyzed on the basis of their underlying emotion or message.
Results: The authors’ responses indicate that they appreciate receiving constructive reviewer comments and benefit from such comments. However, authors are often demoralized when they receive comments that are superficial, harsh, or overcritical, and do not provide constructive suggestions for improvement.
Conclusion: While it is true that peer review work claims a lot of time and energy from busy scientists, the purpose is lost when reviewer comments are purely negative. If peer reviewers could keep in mind the feelings of authors while drawing up their reports, peer review would become more effective and a more positive experience for authors.

A peer review card exchange game
Ružica Tokalić & Ana Marušić
Issue 44(3) August 2018. Original Article
Introduction: Peer review aims to ensure the quality of research and help journal editors in the publication process. COST action PEERE, which explores peer review, including its efficiency, transparency and accountability, organised a peer review school endorsed by EASE. We developed a card exchange game based on responsibility and integrity in peer review for a hands-on training session.
Methods: We used the approach for the development of training materials about responsible research and innovation developed by the HEIRRI project, and the principles of the card game for the popularisation of the philosophy of science.
Results: We created 32 card statements about peer review, distributed across 6 domains: Responsiveness, Competence, Impartiality, Confidentiality, Constructive criticism and Responsibility to science. We adapted the instructions for the game and tested the game during the peer review school at the University of Split School of Medicine, Croatia, May 2018. The feedback by the participants was very positive.
Conclusions: The Peer Review Card Exchange Game could be used as an introductory activity for teaching integrity and ethics in peer review training.

Criticism of peer review and ways to improve it
Hasan Shareef Ahmed, Armen Yuri Gasparyan
Issue: 39(1) February 2013. Essays
This paper reviews some critical aspects of peer review in developed and developing countries. Though the peer review process is criticised for some of its drawbacks, it is still widely accepted as a tool for preserving the integrity and quality of scholarly communication. Peer review varies widely across journals and countries. Many developing and some developed countries suffer from substandard and biased peer review mainly due to the lack of training in peer review. The peer review process is still slow, expensive, poor in detecting scientific misconduct, and open to abuse. It needs reforming to make it more effective worldwide.