Young Scholars' / Researchers' User Guide

Are you a researcher trying to survive the jungle of publishing? Here you will find a tailored-made survival guide just for you. 


1. What is peer review?

Peer review is a concept and not a method. Peer review is very versatile: it can be unbound from the print journal and applied to any product. It is employed for evaluating scientific results, research data, research proposals and grants. E.g. it is used in teaching to assess portfolio information about the teaching of an instructor; in pedagogy to enhance students’ critical skills; in medicine as the process by which a committee of physicians examines the work of a peer and determines whether the physician under review has met accepted standards of care.

2. What are the reponsibilities of a reviewer?

It is important that reviewers/participants in peer review:
  • Provide a fair, robust and timely critique that is useful for the authors in improving their manuscript
  • Declare all conflicts of interests. Do not permit personal prejudice to influence the peer review process, and do not introduce considerations that are irrelevant to the review criteria
  • Do not take calculated or undue advantage of knowledge gained during the peer review process
  • Ensure that the criteria to be applied to are informed and complied with
  • Do not agree to engage in peer review outside their area of expertise
  • Give proper consideration to research which challenges or changes accepted ways of thinking

3. How to choose a journal for manuscript submission based on peer review policy?

Some points you might want to bear in mind, depending on your personal opinions on the matters:
  • What kind of review (blind, open report, open ID, etc.) does the journal offer?
  • Do you need to find or suggest reviewers?
  • Does the journal publish the reviewers` identity or/and report?
  • Will the journal allow cooperation with editors and reviewers to enhance the quality of the manuscript?
  • Will the journal publicly publish the submitted manuscript before peer-review?

4. What can you do as a reviewer to foster open science?

  • Sign your review
  • Enter open discussion with the authors where possible
  • More effective outcomes can be achieved if a direct contact is established with the author for clarification or to resolve incompleteness.
  • Publish your review if possible
  • Some journals offer the opportunity to publish the report with the article.
  • Ask for the data
  • The Peer Reviewers' Openness Initiative (PRO) initiative gives the power to the reviewers to drive this change by requesting access to the underlying data in order to do an adequate review. The organizers urge reviewers to demand access to data from editors or directly from the authors, if this is permitted, in order “to increase the quality of the published research by creating an expectation of open research practices.”
  • Register your report
  • Review services such as Publons or PeerJ allow reviewers to keep track of their review activities and get recognition for them by collecting review credits.
  • Clarify your rights
  • As open access of review reports is increasingly becoming an accepted option in peer review, it is in the best interest of the reviewer to clarify the licensing rights concerning the report with the publishers.

5. Who is the ‘peer’ in the peer review process?

Within the strengthening open science discourse, transparency is requirement to improve engagement, exchange of ideas and cooperations among different actors (whether private, public or civil society/third sector) to co-create innovative products and solutions to scientific and social problems.

6. How does transparent peer review process advance innovative research?

Transparency improves research and publishing system on several different levels. Firstly, allowing public access to peer reviews increases transparency and trust in the system. The whole process of scientific research and publication is based on trust. The peer review system operates on the assumption that authors, reviewers and all involved stakeholders act genuinely in a transparent manner. However, if editors cannot take face value the author’s suggestions for reviewers or assume authors want to have their work peer reviewed and improved, publishers will introduce limitations in the process in order to protect the integrity of the system (e.g. BioMed Central disabled the option of allowing to invite author-suggested reviewers). On the other side, authors’ trust within the system can fade when the submitted manuscript is leaked by a reviewer, and shared on the internet without consent. Such breach of confidentiality or examples of favoritism based on friendship, and reviewer misconduct due to close working relations with the author, can all lead up to broken trust in the research community, which hinders the development of the publishing system. These examples strengthen the belief that the secrecy involved in the process generate corruption and malice, while transparency could the re-introduce trustinto the system, which could increase validity and credibility of scientific research and publishing.

Secondly, openness and transparency are essential ingredients of innovation. Within the strengthening open science discourse, transparency is requirement to improve engagement, exchange of ideas and cooperations among different actors (whether private, public or civil society/third sector) to co-create innovative products and solutions to scientific and social problems.

7. What training exists for peer review?

  • For a general free online course during which besides the main principles of peer reviewing, other important issues, such as data sharing and transparency are discussed with registered researchers you can go to the Publons Academy.
  • Some libraries also offer courses, sometimes together with publishers.
  • Peer review has some generalities but is also journal specific. Most publishers and journals provide their own guidelines/instructions in peer review (see some examples in the list below). If you want to get an idea what peer review reports look like, you can visit some journals that publish the review reports publicly with the article. These journals are for example: BMJ, Open Biology , Open Science and Biomed Central (journals labelled with “open peer review”) .
Some examples of journal specific information:

8. Open Reward options for peer review?

1. Intrinsic
  • being a part of the research community,
  • having advanced access to the latest research,
  • contributing to the pool of knowledge in a given field,
  • act as a gatekeeper for quality in an area of science that I know and care about.
2. Extrinsic:
  • Monetary compensation. Independent review services (Rubrique) charge for their services, which covers partially the fees paid to the reviewers themselves.
  • Monetary reward system for reviewers (Veruscript publisher) with options: They can take a cash reward; save up credits to put towards their own publishing costs in the future; or donate these credits to help researchers who want to publish but cannot afford APCs.
  • Credit system (Publons) where peer reviewers receive merits for various levels of reviewing activities. This serves both as a reward and a motivation for participating in the review process: one merit for completing a review, one more credit for being verified by an editor, one more credit if the full content of the review is published, and additional credits for giving or receiving endorsement to/from other reviewers.
  • Integrating review work in the academic career system. It is very important for reviewers to receive credit for their work, so counting review work in the academic advancement system or making it a requirement in the hiring process would definitely mean acknowledgement for all voluntary scholarly contributions.
  • Peer review work can be acknowledged as academic output, when made visible and integrated into scholarly work (in Croatia review work is part of institutional reporting).
  • A Proposed Currency System for Academic Peer Review Payments Using the BlockChain Technology (Spearpoint 2017)