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Modernizing Peer Review

Peer review is a crucial practice for evaluating academic, scientific, and professional work, supporting research integrity, and building trust in research. This volunteer-based activity has fallen short, in large part due to burnout with unpaid labor, but also due to mismatched reviewer expertise, dishonest behavior, and subjectivity (Shah).  

There have been many efforts to “fix” peer review in recent decades. The needs of the public, which includes nonscientists, can’t be ignored. In light of the 2022 Office of Science and Technology’s goal for public accessibility to scholarly publications, there must be an effort to involve the public in discussions about what different stages of publications represent and an understanding of what they are (Berenbaum).  

“Open” review practices can take many forms; in named review, the names of peer reviewers and their reports are published alongside the scholarship in question; in crowd-sourced review, a draft of the article or book is made available for public comment before it is published (Library Publishing Coalition Research Committee 2020).  

Preprints are scholarly works made available before formal peer review. Preprint repositories include arXiv, SSRN, and Zenodo. ASAPbio (Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology), Preprint Review, and Review Commons are communities that promote the use of preprints as well.  

Another recent move has been shifting the process from before a manuscript is made available to readers (pre-publication peer review) to after it is made available to readers (post-publication peer review). Notable spaces where post-publication peer review occurs include ResearchGate, PubPeer, and PubMed Commons. Post-publication peer review allows for more immediate feedback on a publication through commenting mechanisms. This move has been a reaction to the tendency of pre-publication peer review to be slow, time-consuming, and ineffective at detecting fraud. However, post-publication peer review can create confusion about the final nature of the publication, making it seem like a never-ending process. 

Open October and Peer Review Resources

As we approach Open October, peer review will be a focus in the keynote that will explore the 2022 Office of Science and Technology memo that directs peer-reviewed research to be available freely and without delay. Becker Medical Library and University Libraries will discuss ORCID’s (Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier) role in getting credit for peer review as well. Peer review will also be a relevant topic of discussion during the open education sessions about evaluating open pedagogy projects and OERs (Open Educational Resources).

The Peer Review Week event page can help you get started by learning about peer review models, best practices, and strategies for finding reviewers or improving your skills. The Peer Review Toolkit from F1000 also provides writing tips and reports of peer review practices from different disciplines. It is also worth reading recent conversations on the Scholarly Kitchen, focusing on pressing issues and challenges facing peer review.

Staff photo of Treasa Bane.

About the Author

Treasa Bane
Job Title
Copyright and Scholarly Communication Librarian