Patient and public involvement in clinical research is attracting increased attention, not least because it has the potential to increase the quality and value of research. The BMJ and Research Involvement and Engagement (RIE) journals have adopted innovative strategies aimed at involving patients and the public in their publishing models. These include the incorporation of patient and public review into their peer review processes. Last year, The BMJ and RIE invited these reviewers to participate in a survey to evaluate their experiences. The results were published in BMJ Open in September and are being reviewed by the journals to enhance the guidance and support they provide to their reviewers.
Overall, 224 invited reviewers responded to the survey. Of 157 who had previously reviewed, 127 (81%) would recommend being a reviewer to others and an overwhelming majority (92%) thought that patient and public review should be adopted by more journals. Reviewers described being motivated to review by the opportunity to include the patient voice in research, to ensure the literature is understandable and relevant, and by the intellectual challenge. Only a small number of reviewers (16/224, 7%) were concerned about performing open review (in which reviewers are asked to sign their reviews, and these are seen by the authors of the paper and potentially the readers of the article). When asked how their experience of being a patient reviewer could be improved, respondents were keen for more resources, training and support through the peer review process.
RIE have already acted on feedback from their patient and wider reviewer community and have developed reviewer guidelines, including links to training resources and example reviews. The BMJ are also striving to make their processes “as straightforward and smooth as possible” and provide reviewers with guidance as well as training packages. The BMJ and RIE hope that the survey results may also be of benefit to other journals thinking of initiating patient and public review and note that “further research is planned to identify where and how patient and public reviewers add value to the peer review process.”