Chris Graf
Chris Graf
Director, Research Integrity and Publishing Ethics, Wiley

Inspired by his success with transparent peer review, Wiley is working with Reiner Veitia, editor-in-chief of Clinical Genetics, along with Publons, and ScholarOne - both part of Clarivate Analytics - to introduce a new, more robust and automated option for researchers to choose transparent peer review. We’ve undertaken this work to make the whole process easier, and enable many more journals to do the same. We asked Reiner and our friends at Publons to share their thoughts and begin to spread the word about this foundational work.


Transparent peer review advocate Reiner Veitia, Editor-in-chief, Clinical Genetics                          Andrew Preston, Managing Director at Publons



Q. Reiner, when did you introduce transparent peer review to Clinical Genetics and how does it operate?


A. We first started offering more transparency for authors in the peer review process when I became the Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Genetics in January 2016. Authors are able to choose whether they would like more transparency in peer review, and if so, the reviewers’ comments as well as the authors' point-by-point responses are published. The content of the peer review report is shared, but reviewers are able to choose if they wish to reveal their identity or not. Initially, when we introduced this process the peer review history was shared within the supplementary material of the published article. However, more recently this year, in a collaborative pilot with Wiley, Publons and ScholarOne a dedicated team has been able to establish a new workflow that enables the peer review history to be viewed on its own page, via a link from the published article, like this.


Q. What would you add to that, Andrew, about your interests in transparent peer review?


A. There has been increased demand for open peer review models in recent years, as publishers and researchers strive to bring greater transparency to the research process. We believe open and transparent peer review will ultimately reduce fraudulent review, improve research integrity and reproducibility as well as providing greater visibility and recognition of the efforts of reviewers.


Academic journals have faced a number of practical difficulties to adopt transparent peer review models, hindered by complex and established workflows. We were really excited to partner with Wiley to develop a robust and seamless solution to these challenges.


Q. Why were you so keen to adopt transparent peer review in the first place, Reiner?


A. From my perspective as an author and as an editor, I firmly believe that the editorial process should be transparent. Publishing the accompanying peer review history of a paper adds real value to the peer review process and illustrates how the process of publishing research works. Increased transparency in peer review shows the “whys” and “hows” behind the editorial decision-making process. It is also a resource for early career researchers (and for the community at large) to appreciate how the results of a paper were perceived by the peer reviewers, to view the constructive comments and questions they raised, and  to see how the authors addressed them.


At present, the practice of making available the reviewer reports, authors’ responses and editorial correspondence is only done by a small proportion of journals. I think this is a pity because the reader cannot see the information underlying the editorial decisions, or appreciate the quality of the reviews on which these editorial decisions are based. This is particularly critical for early career researchers who need to fully understand the process of peer review. A transparent process is also likely to result in more thoughtful and fair reviews. As the physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman said: “A very great deal more truth can become known than can be proven”. I’m in agreement with this idea, I feel that publishing the authors’ responses to the questions and comments of the reviewers also allows a record of the authors’ thinking behind their research too.



Q. What feedback have you received so far, Reiner?


A. In general, I think increased transparency in peer review is appreciated by both authors and readers and that is also what I hear from my colleagues. However, we had some learning points along the way. When we first started the process it was not as automated as it is now, and authors had to post the reviewers’ comments as an online supplement. Now the pilot with Publons and ScholarOne has provided a more automated process and we see a higher proportion of authors choosing transparency in peer review. In my opinion, this is due to the fact that the current process is straightforward and posting the information is ‘automatic’ (i.e. without extra effort from the authors).


In the 57 days since we adopted our new, more automated, approach, we’ve received a total of 137 new manuscripts submitted, and from these 123 corresponding authors have chosen our transparent peer review option. To make a comparison, for the same number of manuscripts submitted in the months before we made the change, 3 corresponding authors chose our previous transparent peer review option. We’re excited about these early results, and will report more when manuscripts have made their way through transparent peer review to publication.


Q. And from an editor’s perspective what do you consider to be the main benefits of transparent peer review?


A. There are concerns in the research community regarding the trustworthiness and quality of the peer-review process in its entirety. I think, along with others, that increased transparency in the peer review process can restore trust and revitalize the process, bringing more accountability and recognition for the people involved. This is essential in our current setting, especially in the broader context of movements such as open science. Increasing transparency in collaboration with Publons has also enabled recognition for the incredibly valuable work reviewers do. Assigning DOIs makes the peer reviewer reports citable in their own right. Additional functionality on the Publons site enables more interaction. For example, reviewer reports can be endorsed by, or commented on, by Publons users, continuing the conversation around peer review and the published research.


Q. Andrew, from a technology and peer review platform point of view, what do you think makes our new approach to transparent peer review valuable for researchers and research publishers?


A. The new workflow enables transparent publication of an article’s complete peer review process — from initial review and response through to revision and final publication decision. Alongside the published article, readers can now review a comprehensive peer review history. Each element of the peer review process has also been assigned its own digital object identifier (DOI), enabling future authors to easily reference and cite relevant peer review content.


Beginning with Wiley’s prestigious journal Clinical Genetics, this is the first open peer review initiative to develop a scalable model applicable to diverse publishing processes. The comprehensive workflow provides alignment to best-practice data privacy regulation, ensuring the individual preferences of authors, peer reviewers and journals are met.


Q. Reiner, to close, what are your recommendations to people who are considering implementing transparent peer review?


A. I am convinced that increased transparency in the peer review process is an essential step in the open science movement and this is the right time to get involved in that process. I am eagerly waiting the outcomes of the next stage of the pilot when it has been able to run for a longer time. For example, finding out how many authors are opting for the initiative, how reviewers are finding it and if reviewers are willing to be identified alongside their comments.  These are exciting times for peer review and we will be sharing what we learn along the way.


Thank you, Reiner and Andrew

And thank you to the dedicated team who contributed so much to this initiative: Erin Arndt, Tiago Barros, Lisbeth Cranfield, Cathy Greig, Laura Harvey, Lou Peck and Elizabeth Moylan.


To close, we have a final message for Wiley journal editors, and for researchers who submit their work to Wiley journals.


For Wiley editors, we’re running a waitlist for the next group of journals at which we’ll use our new transparent peer review toolkit, and introduce more transparency to the peer review process. So editors please do add your journal to the list: Please speak with your publisher.


And if you’re a researcher who would like to see more transparent peer review at the journals you work with to publish your research, then please make your voice heard in the comments below: Together we can make this option available for researchers in your communities.


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