Advancing peer review

By Elizabeth Moylan, Senior Editor, Peer Review & Innovation, BMC (part of Springer Nature)

At BMC, we’ve always supported innovation in peer review and were one of the first publishers to truly open up peer review in 1999. Fiona Godlee, then Editorial Director for BMC, explained the reasons for this decision, including ethical superiority (reviewers are accountable for their decisions and there is less scope for biased or unjustified judgements or misappropriate of data), lack of important adverse effects, feasibility in practice and recognition for reviewers. However, no one model of peer review is perfect, and the drawbacks to open peer review are that it can increase the number of reviewers that decline to review and increase the time taken to produce a report.

While these drawbacks are not insurmountable in practice, could we better support peer reviewers undertaking open peer review? After all, fully open peer review allows us to address many questions in peer review, particularly with respect to gender, diversity and research into the effectiveness of the process. Are there ways of incentivising open peer review that could help?

As part of Springer Nature, we have explored and introduced many new ways to make the process of peer review more transparent, to ensure our reviewers get the recognition they deserve, as well as developed new free tools and services. This includes involving patients in the process, and championing initiatives which address publication bias, such as Registered Reports and results-free peer review initiated by BMC Psychology. We also introduced a new free online course called Focus on Peer Review via Nature Masterclasses in September 2017. We strongly believe that piloting new approaches and partnering with others is key to advancing peer review. Find out more in our 2017 annual report, BMC Research in Progress.