Webinar: Addressing Reviewer Bugbears with Innovations in Peer Review

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In advance of Peer Review Week (25-29 September), Research Information consultant editor Tim Gillett hosted a webinar on behalf of IOP Publishing and Morressier, entitled Addressing Reviewer Bugbears with Innovations in Peer Review.

Though the principle of peer review is largely unchanged since academic records began, the way it is conducted is evolving at speed. The webinar focussed on innovations in peer review and explored whether artificial intelligence might help or hinder in protecting the scholarly record.

The event featured three speakers: Michelle North, who is a researcher and reviewer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; Kim Eggleton, head of peer review and research integrity at IOP Publishing; and Barry Prendergast, design operations manager at the technology company Morressier.

Michelle North spoke about the lack of coordination between journals when it comes to peer review invitations and submissions, her own struggles with issues of language bias as a reviewer, and the possible use of AI to help address the English language barrier for authors. She also expressed her hopes that publishers will try to build stronger bridges with researchers, to improve the relationship as partners in the production, promotion, and curation of knowledge.

Kim Eggleton outlined a society publisher’s views on the necessity of innovating peer review to address current issues such as bias, as well as the rise of artificial intelligence. She also revealed plans for a new and extensive peer review innovation project that IOP Publishing is working on with Morressier.

Barry Prendergast provided a thorough and revealing technology perspective to innovations in Peer Review. In his presentation he explained that, to truly transform this cornerstone of the academic publishing process, the scholarly communications industry will have to embrace huge changes to policies and culture, as well as new technological capabilities.

A dynamic Q&A session tackled questions including:

  • Is there a danger that the machines will automate the process too much?
  • What are the major and opportunities and threats around AI in peer review?
  • How should artificial intelligence and machine learning deal with the issues of consent, data privacy, copyright and GDPR?
  • What benefits might those in the Global South reap as technology progresses, and what additional challenges might it present? and
  • What might the ideal world of peer review look like in the future?

The presenters all agreed that the peer review process is in need of change – and that technology has the capability to modernise and improve the peer review system. However, while machines excel at data analysis and can help make many aspects of peer review more efficient, the human element of peer review must not be forgotten – only real, live researchers can provide the nuanced judgements required.

Technology presents huge opportunities and challenges for those in both the Global North and South. While technology can help level the playing field for authors with English as a second or third language, and could open up opportunities in terms of eliminating bias and encouraging more diverse opinions, there are still questions around whether technological barriers and costs could further hold back scientists in the Global South.

In summary, there is much optimism around the potential for technology to improve the peer review process ­– but, also many concerns about the multiple challenges along the way.  Watch the webinar here!


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