Peer-Review in Publications: Types & Reviewer's Responsibilities
27 Oct 2017
Peer review is an embodiment of the process of validating research by scientific evaluation and harmonizing the virtues and deficit of the manuscripts and thus, improving the quality of the publication. Most commonly adopted peer review formats by scientific journals are single- or double-blinded peer review, with increasing acceptance of open review and post-publication review by some journals.
In the single blind peer review process, which is the most common type, the reviewers know the identity of the author(s), but the author(s) are unaware of reviewer’s. This method intends to reduce the chances of bias or conflict of interest, however, the knowledge of author’s identity to the reviewers may influence the review process. On the contrary, gratuitously critical or malicious comments can be made by reviewers, which can be justified by their anonymity.
To avoid these, double-blind review can be an excellent tool where both the reviewer and the author are anonymous, which ensures prevention of any bias towards certain authors or regions of the world i.e., based on an author’s country of origin or past published research. Double blind review facilitates the decision making for acceptance/rejection based on the content of the manuscript and not because of the reputation of the authors. Nonetheless, this method is not infallible as the reviewers can determine the identities of the authors either because of their writing style, area of research or self-citation making.
In an open peer review, the identities of authors or reviewers are not concealed. It is believed that the transparency offered promote the accountability, avoid plagiarism, encourage open and honest reviewing, and improve the quality or review, and publication in overall. This method is criticized by few who think there are chances of reviewer toning down criticism, due to civility or fear of reprisal or carrier obstacle, especially when authors are senior researchers in the field.
With the advancement of electronic publishing, reader can also review and comment on the publications in the post-publication peer review method, which includes the publication of articles in open-access forums, such as arXiv or other digital libraries. These articles are then reviewed, assessed and possibly ranked. This method allows the review by the entire scientific community, irrespective of the journal it is published in. The benefit of post-publication review process is that, comments from a wider range of people are taken into account, which in turn leads to faster dissemination of ideas. However, eliciting high-quality insightful reviews from participants is a chief concern in post-publication reviewing.
Overall quality of the published article is ensured by the editorial board of the journal, comprising of reviewers and editors, who evaluate the paper based on the contribution to the innovation, relevance, and impact of the implications to the targeted field. Peer reviewers have significant responsibilities toward authors, editors, and readers over and above fairness in judgment, as listed below.
- Confidentiality: Reviewers should maintain the confidentiality of the data/ideas submitted as this unpublished data and ideas are the sole property of the authors and it is inappropriate for personal use or sharing with others. It is a serious ethical concern, and reviewers should seek authors’ permission to use their data.
- Integrity: The review comments should be exclusive of any bias of conflicts and meet high standards of ethics and science.
- Beneficial Critiques: Reviewers should analyze both the merits and flaws of the study and provide an honest and constructive feedback.
- Timelines: The adherence to timeliness in publishing the results before they get outdated is crucial and hence, the reviewers who agree to review a manuscript must complete their reviews within the timelines. A reviewer should decline the review request if he/she is not able to do so.
- Conflicts of Interest and Bias: Reviewers should treat authors and manuscripts with respect and hence, should rescue themselves in case of any bias, and disclose any conflicts that may include personal, professional or financial considerations like employment, consultation, stock ownership, honoraria, expert testimony and funding.
- Scientific Misconduct: Reviewer must detect and challenge any flawed paper, duplicate publication, plagiarism or fraudulent paper and the same should be informed to the editor to take appropriate action.
- Alfaro LD and Faella M. TrueReview: A Platform for Post-Publication Peer Review. Accessed online at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1608.07878.pdfon October 22, 2016.
- Ranganathan N. The Responsibility of Reviewers. IEEE transactions on very large scale integration (VLSI) systems. 2004;12(12):1261-1262.
- Council of Science Editors. Reviewer Roles and Responsibilities. Accessed online at https://www.councilscienceeditors.org/resource-library/editorial-policies/white-paper-on-publication-ethics/2-3-reviewer-roles-and-responsibilities/on October 22, 2016.
- National Council on Family Relations. Responsibilities and Rights of Peer Reviewers. Accessed online at https://www.ncfr.org/jmf/jmf-reviewers/responsibilities-and-rights-peer-reviewerson October 22, 2016.
- What is peer review? Accessed online at https://www.elsevier.com/reviewers/what-is-peer-review#typeson October 22, 2016.