Peer review – Do we need gradual improvements or a revolution?

In the traditional peer review process, a paper goes through multiple rounds of review and revision over several months before being finally published. The long process sometimes forces authors to send their paper to multiple journals, even though it is a malpractice. In fact, there are many instances where papers rejected by several journals have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.
As the reviewers are anonymous and the review report is not published, it is easy for the reviewers and the editors to favour or impede a certain paper without getting noticed. Some journals also employ mathematical modelling to choose journals for publishing; a method akin to the lottery system. Wholesome revolutionary changes in the peer review process aim to address such issues.

Impact Neutral Peer Review

Traditional journals focus on their impact factor and limited page budget. Keeping these criteria in mind, they adopt a selective peer review; in this process they only select manuscripts that are likely to get high citations. These journals generally have high peer review, which means that their rejection rate is high.
Open access journals have adopted a more innovative approach to peer review, which can be seen in their review policies. Most open access journals are reviewing papers to only determine their technical soundness to decide whether they deserve to be included in the journal.
Many new age journals have followed suit; they are focusing on reviewing papers to check that the results are valid, the analysis is flawless and the quality is of the highest level along with its technical soundness.Popular journals like BMJ Open, PeerJ, ScienceOpen Research, Hindawi Group, Biology Direct and the BioMed Central series have, formally or informally, adopted the impact neutral/non-selective review.

Transparency in Peer Review Process

A gradual shift from anonymous to open review is apparent; here the name of the reviewers along with the review report is disclosed to the authors. In some cases, they also allow for reviewer-author interaction. Besides, some journals have adopted double-blind reviews to eliminate bias.
Though a revolution seems to be a thing of the distant future, a gradual improvement in the review process is underway with the responsibility being placed on the shoulders of the reviewer. A lot of transparency and ethical responsibility has come into the process, which is good news for the authors. But the question ‘Do we need gradual improvements or a revolution in the peer review process?’ still needs to be debated to lead to more creative changes that serve the interests of all concerned in the publication process.

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