In order to effect real, industry-wide improvements to the peer review process, publishers, researchers, funders and institutions need to be willing to experiment with different models, encourage more diversity in the reviewer pool, utilise artificial intelligence (AI) and support training and mentoring for peer reviewers, according to a report by BioMed Central and Digital Science.
What might peer review look like in 2030? examines how peer review can be improved for future generations of academics and offers key recommendations to the academic community. The report is based on the lively and progressive sessions at the SpotOn London conference held at Wellcome Collection Conference centre in November 2016.
The report includes a collection of reflections on the history of peer review, current issues such as sustainability and ethics, while also casting a look into the future including advances such as preprint servers and AI applications. The contributions cover perspectives from the researcher, a librarian, publishers and others.
Rachel Burley, publishing director at BioMed Central, explained: ‘Although frequently criticised, peer review still plays an important role in validating research results and advancing discovery. We want to start conversations with all stakeholders to find progressive ways of improving peer review for researchers globally and across all disciplines. We’ve published this report to initiate those conversations and we’re calling on the research community to take part, and take on the challenge.’
The report puts forward BioMed Central’s recommendations on how to build on recent advances and find feasible and innovative ways of improving peer review in a rapidly evolving academic landscape.
- Experiment with different and new models of peer review, particularly those that increase transparency.
- Find and invent new ways of identifying, verifying and inviting peer reviewers, focusing on closely matching expertise with the research being reviewed to increase uptake. AI could be a valuable tool in this.
- Work towards cross-publisher solutions that improve efficiency and benefit all stakeholders. Portable peer review has not taken off at any scale, but could make the publishing process more efficient for all involved.
- Encourage more diversity in the reviewer pool (including early career researchers, researchers from different regions, and women). Publishers in particular could raise awareness and investigate new ways of sourcing female peer reviewers.
- Invest in reviewer training programmes to make sure that the next generation of reviewers is equipped to provide valuable feedback within recognized guidelines.
- Identify ways for funders, institutions and publishers to work together to recognize reviewers and acknowledge their work.
- Use technology to support and enhance the peer review process, including finding automated ways to identify inconsistencies that are difficult for reviewers to spot.
BioMed Central introduced open peer review in 1999, and continues to experiment with new models such as results-free peer review, exploring ways in which to improve the process of peer review, and in some cases, affect radical change to methods, processes and supporting systems.