Reinventing Peer Review

The Authorea Team

Peer review is arguably necessary for effective communication amongst researchers.  Authors, editors, and the public rely on peer review to ensure a first measure of trust in scientific communication.  While peer review is considered to be integral in scholarly communication by most, its shortcomings are becoming evident. Former editor of JAMA and NEJM Drummond Rennie once said, "if peer review was a drug it would never be allowed onto the market." Is this true? Does peer review, as it is done today, cause more harm than good?

Is Peer Review Broken?

"Peer review is easily abused, and there are many examples of authors reviewing their own papers, stealing papers and ideas under the cloak of anonymity, deliberately rubbishing competitors’ work, and taking a long time to review competitors’ studies." - Richard Smith, former editor of British Medical Journal.

Why is the Peer Review so Slow?

The time it takes from submission to publication is on average two years. Many authors attribute the lengthy reviewing times to editor and reviewer fatigue. Decision whether the paper will be published or not can be easily delayed by reviewer unavailability. Some fields have a very small pool of experts. Even though journals try to keep a group of loyal reviewers, multidisciplinary publishers have to often reach outside of their list. Multiple rounds of reviews, outsourcing manuscript management or reviewers intentionally delaying the publication for personal reasons are cited as other possible explanations for the long reviewing process (Nguyen 2015). In the age of data-rich papers reviewers are requesting more data, revisions and new experiments than they used to which may cause further delays.