Preprints and Peer Review Guidelines Are Unclear At Most Journals

Researchers surveyed 171 major academic journals and analysed their public policies regarding preprints and peer reviews.
Of the 171 journals surveyed:
  •  31.6% do not provide information on the peer review they use;
  •  39.2% have unclear guidelines regarding whether preprints can be posted;
  •  58.5% offer no clear information on whether reviewer identities are revealed to authors;
  •  75% of journals have no clear policy on co-reviewing, citation of preprints, and publication of reviewer identities.
  •  Less than 20% provide clear information on Open Peer Review Guidelines.

Preprints

Before articles are published in a peer-reviewed journal, authors share them online (preprint), making them publicly accessible. While preprints have become a common practice in several fields of physics, this policy is still not widely disseminated in the life sciences.
Several platforms, such as SHERPA/RoMEO, an online resource that aggregates information about publishers, including embargo periods and authorisation to publish preprints, allow authors to know which journals accept preprints, but the policies regarding the type of licences, the different versions that can be posted, and the media coverage of preprints remain unclear.

Peer reviews

The policies regarding peer review are even more ambiguous. “If a graduate student prefers to submit to a journal that will anonymously publish the content of peer reviews, they must assemble a list of candidate journals identified by word-of-mouth or by searching across multiple journal websites for policies that are often difficult to find, the authors of the study, published in the open access repository BioRxiv, say.

Co-reviewing

The term co-reviewing refers to the practice of two or more researchers being involved in a peer-review process, even though only one has been formally invited to be a peer-reviewer for a publication. In journals that accept the practice, all reviewers are acknowledged as contributors to the peer review process.
While most researchers state that is unethical to submit peer reviews without naming all contributors, 70% of co-reviewers have contributed to peer reviews without attribution, according to this study.
The platform TRANSPOSE helps researchers to find the policies of journals regarding co-reviewing, open peer review and preprint guidelines.
Source: Klebel, Thomas, et al. “Peer review and preprint policies are unclear at most major journals.” BioRxiv (2020).

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