Researchers want to improve, not replace peer review

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Researchers want to improve, not replace peer review, according to preliminary findings from an international surveys of authors and reviewers, the Peer Review Survey 2009. According to the findings, 84 per cent of respondents believe that without peer review there would be no control in scientific communication, but only a third think it is the best that can be achieved. Furthermore, 20 per cent of researchers believe that peer review is unsustainable because there are not enough willing reviewers.

Technology can help with the process. The survey found that 73 per cent of reviewers within the respondents say that technological advances have made it easier to do a thorough job than five years ago. In contrast, just 15 per cent of respondents felt that ‘formal’ peer review could be replaced by usage statistics.

Another finding was that reviewers want anonymity – 58 per cent would be less likely to review if their signed report was published and 76 per cent favour the double blind system where just the editor knows who the reviewers are.

Meanwhile, reviewers are divided over incentives. Just over half of reviewers think receiving a payment in kind would make them more likely to review; 41 per cent wanted payment for reviewing, but this dropped to just 2.5 per cent if the author had to cover the cost. Acknowledgement in the journal is the most popular option. Reviewers are much less divided about the reasons for reviewing - 90 per cent say they review because they believe they are playing an active role in the community, while only 16 per cent say that increasing their chances of having future papers accepted is a reason to review.

The study was carried out by a UK charity Sense About Science, in consultation with editors and publishers and administered with a grant from Elsevier. The full findings and report are due to be published in November 2009.