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Can we make peer review more efficient?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Integration of presubmission peer review processes and preprints into journal systems could improve the efficiency of conventional peer review.

While peer review is an essential part of the manuscript publication process, it can put a burden on the research community and delay dissemination of research findings. In a recent expert opinion article, published in Trends in Scholarly Publishing, Drs Sam Mathew and Habeeb Ibrahim Abdul Razack discuss how to harness the potential of informal presubmission review to expedite the conventional peer review process.

Presubmission reviews offer authors feedback on their manuscripts, independent of journals. They can be completed by subject matter experts at commercial writing agencies, with the review usually guided by a defined checklist based on conventional journal peer review forms. According to Drs Mathew and Razack, professional presubmission peer review tends to improve manuscript quality by identifying flaws in the research and providing suggestions on how to resolve them, ultimately improving the manuscript’s chances of publication. To avoid transparency issues, the authors recommend that the name of the agency, reviewer’s identity, review comments and how they have been addressed (eg a tracked revised version of the manuscript) should be proactively disclosed upon manuscript submission to a journal. The authors suggest that, depending on how thorough the process was, journal editors might be able to send the manuscript for ‘partial peer review’, focusing on areas not adequately covered by the presubmission review.

Preprint reviews are a type of presubmission review that could also be utilised in the peer review process. Drs Mathew and Razack propose the following preprint–journal system process:

  • A journal deposits a manuscript awaiting assignment of suitable journal reviewers in an independent preprint repository.
  • Readers provide feedback on the preprint and authors revise the manuscript accordingly.
  • The journal monitors readers’ comments and authors’ amends and decides whether the revised manuscript can be published directly or should still undergo formal peer review.
  • Authors can transfer rejected manuscripts, or those not published within a prespecified timeline, to another journal.

The authors believe that integrating professional presubmission review and preprints into the journal peer review process would enable faster manuscript publication and reduce the burden on scholarly peer reviewers.

The article concludes with a call for editors’ and writers’ associations to issue consensus statements on the proposals.

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What do you think – should journals incorporate professional presubmission reviews and preprints into their peer review systems?

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