Over the last year, the Transpose team (which includes ASAPbio staff Naomi Penfold and Jessica Polka and board member Jennifer Lin) have been working to produce a database of journal peer review, co-reviewing, and (detailed) preprint policies. We anticipate the launch of this database along with an interactive website in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we’re happy to share some preliminary results (previously presented at CSE 2019) that provide insight into the accessibility of these policies.
Why collect journal policies?
Access to information about these policies is essential for informed decision-making by authors (who choose where to submit), reviewers (who want to understand what they can expect from the refereeing process), readers (who choose how to critically interpret a paper) and librarians and funders (who might wish to generate lists of recommended journals based on their policies).
Unfortunately, we noticed that these policies are not always as clear as they should be.
In order to develop a quantitative understanding of the situation, we conducted a landscape study of 171 highly-cited journals across all disciplines (assembled via Google Scholar rankings) using the Transpose data collection instrument (see our protocol and other documentation here).
What type of peer review is used?
We found that about one third of these don’t list even basic information about their peer review processes on their websites, for example whether and how the review is blinded. That said, among journals that do list this information, it’s easy to appreciate disciplinary differences. For example, double blind review is prevalent in the humanities and social sciences, but single blind review is comparatively more prevalent in the sciences.
Can co-reviewers contribute to the review?
The phenomenon of “ghost reviewing,” when scholars contribute to peer review without credit, has gained attention recently thanks to a study co-authored by one of our Transpose team members, Gary McDowell. Unclear journal policies might drive ghost reviewing through reviewers’ fear of breaking journal policy by admitting a breach in review confidentiality. Unfortunately, many journals in our sample did not provide much clarity.
What version of a preprint can be posted?
Finally, we looked at the version of a preprint that journals permit to be posted. While many humanities journals don’t have a preprint policy at all, many journals in our sample specifically condone posting only the first version of the article. We are also working to refine our own schema to enhance the clarity of these designations.
The Transpose instrument also contains fields that address openness and transparency in peer review, peer review transfer and credit, as well as preprint policies relating to citation, media coverage, and community review. Stay tuned for a more complete analysis of these fields (and the release of the full database) in the near future!
Cite as Reichmann, Stefan, Ross-Hellauer, Tony, Hindle, Samantha, McDowell, Gary, Lin, Jennifer, Penfold, Naomi, & Polka, Jessica. (2019). Editorial policies of many highly-cited journals are hidden or unclear (Version 3). Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3237242