Back in July 2015 we featured an interview with Professor Flaminio Squazzoni, the Chair of the EU-funded COST Action ‘PEERE: New frontiers of peer review’. To recap, this is a multidisciplinary international project exploring questions in how peer review is conducted and the factors influencing how journal submissions are peer reviewed, and seeking to make evidence-based recommendations about peer review.
A prerequisite to making evidence-based decisions is, of course, having data. For the PEERE project the data are supplied by journals and their publishers. Earlier in March a protocol for sharing peer review data was finalized and signed by representatives from Wiley, Elsevier and Springer Nature. The protocol gives clear directives as to how data are to be stored and safeguarded compliant with all legal requirements. Wiley will contribute peer review data from 100 journals, all of which will be fully anonymized and privacy ensured. So it will not, for example, be possible to trace specific peer reviews back to identifiable authors or reviewers, or to find out who reviewed a particular paper for any given journal. But there will be plenty of data for PEERE researchers to investigate various aspects of how peer review works – for example networks between authors and reviewers (are you more likely to have your paper accepted if you have previously collaborated with a reviewer?) or gender bias in peer review (are male editors more likely to select male reviewers?). You can see some of the research PEERE researchers have already conducted on very limited data sets on the PEERE website.
As well as facilitating research into peer review by the PEERE project, the inter-publisher agreement and protocol is expected to set a standard for future similar initiatives into collaborative research between, for example, publishers, funding agencies and researchers.
The PEERE project is funded through to May 2018; between now and then, alongside conducting evidence-based research, PEERE researchers will hold another couple of workshops reporting on this research. But the highlight of the project will be a ‘training school’ for peer reviewers taking place in Italy in early 2018. It should be of particular interest to early career researchers with a keen interest in knowing how to better conduct peer review, but doubtless the most seasoned journal editor will benefit from learning about research into this most critical of activities in the publication process.
What would you most like to learn about the peer review process? Let us know in the comments below.
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