The process of peer review is not perfect. However, it is essential for the publication of reliable and high quality science, and for this reason, some journals have taken steps to try and improve the fairness and/or transparency of the process. A year ago, Nature Communications began a trial of transparent peer review where, upon acceptance of a paper, the authors have the option to publish the reviewer reports and author rebuttal letters alongside their manuscript. The success of the trial was reviewed in a recent editorial.
Nature Communications reported that approximately 60% of authors chose to take part in the voluntary scheme but found that this varied depending on the paper’s research area. While authors were free to opt out of the trial, reviewers had to agree to the potential publication of the reports prior to review but could retain their anonymity unless they chose to sign their reports. However, only a small number of individuals declined to review under these circumstances. Feedback from readers has also been encouraging, and instances were described where the publication of the review reports added value to the paper and stimulated dialogue between the authors and readers.
Due to this positive response from authors, reviewers and readers, Nature Communications have decided to make transparent peer review a permanent feature, and hopes that, with time, the full benefits of this transparent approach can be appreciated.