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Transparent peer review: are authors willing to publish referee reports?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Nature is giving authors the option to publish anonymised peer review reports alongside their article.
  • Opening up the peer review process promotes transparency and could benefit the research community and general public.

Although an important tool for scientific progress and upholding rigorous standards of proof, peer review reports have typically remained confidential from the wider research community. In a bid to promote transparency in publishing, Nature is piloting a trial to give authors the opportunity to publish their discussions with referees.

In 2016, Nature Communications started offering authors the option to publish peer reviewers’ comments and rebuttal letters alongside their articles. Following a positive uptake in 2021 (approximately 70%), the journal has now gone a step further, announcing that peer review files will be published for all accepted research articles that were submitted after 1 November 2022. For Nature, who began piloting this option in February 2020, almost half (46%) of authors agreed to publish anonymised peer review reports in 2021, and indications in early 2022 suggest that this number is rising.

Almost half (46%) of authors agreed to publish anonymised peer review reports in Nature in 2021.

Nature strongly encourages researchers to consider publishing their exchanges with reviewers, citing the following benefits to the scientific research community and general public:

  • promoting transparency
  • preserving valuable scholarship
  • providing insight into the peer review process to both early-career researchers and those who study peer review systems
  • recognising the contributions of peer reviewers
  • highlighting discussion on valid potential caveats or limitations of studies
  • allowing readers to better critically assess the robustness of the study conclusions
  • enabling authors to raise supportive arguments not suitable for integration within the article itself.

Given the promising results from the Nature’s pilot, the journal hopes that more authors will opt to publish their referee reports with a view to improve how science is represented.

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Do you think more publishers should adopt transparent peer review?

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