Written by Assoc Prof A. Emre Eşkazan | Division of Hematology, Department of Internal Medicine, Cerrahpasa Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey | @eskazanae
Why is peer review an important aspect of the publication process?
Although many criticisms regarding the integrity of the peer review process are in the literature, most of the scientific community still think that peer review is the best way of evaluating scientific literature, and it is one of the key components of scientific publishing. It involves the rigorous examination of manuscripts by other scientists that, in other words, can be considered the ‘quality control’ of the manuscripts. Other experts in the same field check the validity of the submitted work and evaluate its suitability for publication. Peer review helps the editors and/or publishers to decide whether work should be accepted, rejected, or revised and improved prior to publication.
How has peer reviewer feedback shaped your scientific writing?
This process provides many authors (and, of course, me) the opportunity to improve the quality and clarity of their manuscripts. As a reviewer and an editor, it allows me to criticise papers more efficiently, since I take part in the peer review process from both sides, both as an author and as a reviewer.
How important do you feel it is for young researchers to author papers and then take on board and implement peer reviewer comments?
I think this is really important. When you are a young scientist, you submit papers to journals and hope that they will be accepted, or at least undergo revision, and will not to be rejected. This peer review process, especially when it results in a negative outcome, sometimes discourages young scientists, but it should not. The feedback should enable them to improve their manuscripts by making the necessary changes asked for by the peer reviewers, if they believe this needs to be done. Then they may be able to submit their work to another journal with the revisions already made, which may result in a favourable outcome.
What do you think are the most useful comments peer reviewers can provide to improve a paper? Do you think procedures should be put in place to ensure that all reviewer comments follow a similar style to make them as useful as possible to the author?
As an author, sometimes you wait for weeks or months when your paper is ‘Under Review’, and then you get a decision letter from the editor saying that your paper was rejected. We could say that it is part of the game, and papers are either accepted or rejected but, after seeing a reviewer comment on your paper that has been under review for 2 months say ‘’the manuscript does not contain enough novel data to deserve publication’’, I do not think that you can keep your faith in the peer review process.
A peer reviewer should be an expert in its field, and more importantly, they should believe in the peer reviewing process and must spend enough time while performing the review. The comments by the reviewer should focus on giving suggestions in improving the manuscript if they think that the manuscript deserves publication. On the other hand, as a reviewer, if you think that a manuscript is unacceptable, you can still give comments/suggestions to your colleague, rather than just saying that the manuscript does not deserve publication. It should always be kept in mind that the author may submit the manuscript to another journal after performing your modifications.
How would you improve the peer review process?
The peer review process cannot be bias free; bias can only be minimised.1 From my point of view, the first thing to be done is to perform the peer review process in a double-blind fashion, in which the authors and reviewers are not aware of each other’s identities and institutional affiliations. Even a triple-blind review can be done, where reviewers are anonymous, and the author’s identity is unknown to both the reviewers and the editor. Although some experts believe that such blinding does not improve the quality of the review, double/triple-blind review may eliminate chances of bias in the review process. Of course, the main responsibility lies with the authors who should be as accurate as possible while performing scientific work and writing a manuscript.
- Cohen A et al. Organised crime against the academic peer review system. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016;81(6):1012- Available at: https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/bcp.12992