Peer review often comes under fire for being inefficient, lengthy, open to bias, and liable to resulting in conflicting feedback from reviewers. The open access journal eLife, carries out consultative review in an attempt to overcome some of these criticisms. This includes encouraging open discourse between reviewers and editors, so that authors receive a clear decision on their submission and precise instructions on what needs to be done for their paper to be published. As discussed in an editorial by eLife’s Mark Patterson and Randy Schekman, the journal is now trialling an even more radical form of peer review.
In the trial, as in the journal’s existing editorial process, papers are first assessed at the submission stage by a senior editor. If the work is considered to be of a high scientific standard or significance, authors will then be invited to submit the paper for external review. However, while only half of papers that are peer reviewed are accepted for publication in the journal’s current editorial system, in the trial all papers sent for external review will essentially be accepted for publication. Following peer review it will be the author’s decision as to how they respond to the editorial and reviewer feedback. This may mean performing additional work, editing the manuscript, responding to specific points in the rebuttal letter, or withdrawing the paper if serious flaws are identified. The editors will assess whether the authors have fully addressed the peer review issues or whether minor or major issues remain unresolved. Regardless of the outcome of this assessment, providing the author is happy to proceed, the article will be published alongside the reviewer reports, decision letter and author response. The editor’s assessment will also be published and will appear within the manuscript at the end of the abstract.
eLife hope this new approach will allow the journal to become a venue for critical and transparent research evaluation, as well as encouraging open and constructive dialogue between reviewers and authors and increasing the efficiency of peer review. They anticipate unpredictable reactions from the authors, editors and reviewers of the 300 submissions that will form the trial. eLife will publish a report of the trial outcomes – watch this space for an update!