Potential Solutions to Peer Review Challenges

A previous post presented information from the 2018 Global State of Peer Review report that identified a number of challenges with the scholarly peer review system.

Those challenges include a steady increase in submission volume, the lack of incentives for doing peer review, a decline in researchers’ willingness to review, and overreliance on a specific region (the United States) for reviewers.

So how do we address these challenges?

According to the report, 83% of respondents have a clear idea of what will make a game-changing difference in peer review: greater recognition and formalized incentives.

Further, 88% of survey respondents believe that peer review training is important for ensuring high quality peer review, and 80% of respondents believe that peer review training will have a positive impact on efficacy.

An interesting finding from the report is that emerging regions are more likely to accept review invitations and complete reviews faster than their colleagues in the west, but their reviews are shorter in length. Consequently, attracting quality reviewers from developing regions and providing coaching on how to review are areas of potential focus.

One of the companies behind the 2018 Global State of Peer Review is Publons, the Clarivate Analytics for-profit peer review service. It’s easy to anticipate how the Publons sales force will use the data in this report to pitch the service, particularly because true solutions to these challenges—while obvious and easy to state—would be extremely difficult to put into practice, principally because providing training and offering incentives have time and dollars attached. Further, process changes can be extremely difficult to implement.

However, small steps based on the observations in this report could produce meaningful change over time on a journal-by-journal basis. In the past 3 years, the Ochsner Journal has built some new processes with the aim of creating a responsive, robust reviewer database. The outcomes have been promising, but we aren’t where we need to be. In future posts, we’ll discuss some of the things we’ve done and some of the ideas we plan to try. We’ll see where the journey takes us.