Ranking of referees for effective peer review process

The peer review process is important for all scientific publications. After a manuscript is accepted, it is sent to the journal-assigned peer reviewer, who evaluates its quality and factual accuracy. For an effective reviewing process, a behavioral economics journal initiated a process of ranking the peer-reviewers.

The peer review process includes analysis of the paper to check its suitability for the target journal based on the journal requirements and scope of publication of the research article. The main goal is to identify the uniqueness of the conducted study. The reviewer also checks the relevance of the citations in the text as well as those in the bibliography. The process also comprises verification of the accuracy of statistical analyses done in the study and proper presentation of the data in the paper.

The peer review process helps generate good and qualitative publications by working on the improvisation of factual contents. It also provides a logical justification for the research paper. Besides, it enables authors to use the critical feedback received from the reviewer to refine their manuscripts in a more productive or constructive manner by incorporating the revisions in the research paper.

Exemplar peer-reviewers ranking

Although the peer-review process is a crucial step, it sometimes becomes long and cumbersome, which impedes the publication cycle. To encourage an efficient reviewing process and to appreciate the reviewers’ work, the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics is in the news for its new strategy to release its referee list in descending order on its webpage.

The order will be judged based on the reviewing speed computed from the time of accepting the invitation to the time of submission. However, the journal has no plans to disclose the facts and figures of the ranking on its website. By ranking the reviewers, the journal aims to create an urge amongst peer reviewers to complete their reviewing process in time with high accuracy in order to be recognized by the journal on an online forum.

It is likely that the idea of speeding up the peer review process by a ranking system will soon catch on. If that happens, it could crunch the peer-review process followed by journals and increase the rate of submission and acceptance of papers.

Post-submission actions: Editorial decision and peer review process

Post submission action : Peer Review

Annually, approximately 3-4 million manuscripts are submitted to various journals for publication. Each journal initiates the ensuing publication process with the screening of the manuscript before finalizing it for the peer-review process. Screening includes analysis of the paper based on the journal’s aim, scope, and reader’s interest. The decision is also influenced by the clarity of the content and adherence to journal instructions. In most journals, around 60-70% manuscripts are rejected during the initial screening process.

Once selected by the journal editors, the paper is sent to peer reviewers. Peer reviewing is a critical assessment of the manuscript by subject experts who are not part of the journal’s editorial team. Hence, journal editors carefully select the reviewers, also known as referees, based on the latter’s expertise in the subject area so that they are competent to review papers that include technical aspects. Some journals ask the authors to recommend both preferred and non-preferred reviewers to save their time while searching for appropriate reviewers for the paper.

Peer review has become an intrinsic part of the journal publication process because it gauges the quality of the paper and determines whether the manuscript is worth publishing. Generally, journals complete the peer-review process within 3-4 weeks; however, some journals have no time restrictions.

The peer review process is categorized into three types: single-blind, double-blind, and open. The first type hides the identity of the reviewers, whereas the second hides the identities of both the authors and the reviewers. Conversely, an open peer review reveals the identities of the authors to reviewers and vice versa.

Based on the feedback received from the reviewers, the journal arrives at the following decisions:

  • Acceptance. The manuscript can be published in the submitted format.
  • Rejection. The manuscript is rejected.
  • Acceptance with minor revisions. The manuscript needs minor revisions and can be published after incorporating the revisions.
  • Acceptance after major revisions. The manuscript needs major revisions by the authors and can be considered for acceptance after the revisions are incorporated.
  • Revision and resubmission. The paper requires additional statistical and/or editorial revision followed by resubmission.

Apart from these decisions, there are few more scenarios in which a manuscript can be published. Some journals follow a reject and resubmit policy. For the authors, this involves a repetition of the entire submission process after making fundamental changes in the paper as advised by the journal editor and peer reviewers. On the other hand, few publication houses reject the paper for the target journal and advice the authors to transfer the submission to another journal within the same publication house. This is referred to as the journal cascading process.

Even if the post-submission processes apparently showcase more cons than pros of the submitted manuscript, they eventually help enhance the quality of the manuscript.

Peer Review Mechanism

Many of us have often come across the terms “peer review”, “peer-reviewed journal” or “peer-reviewed paper” at some or the other point of time. But, how many of us know what exactly the term “peer review” refers to or what the “peer review process” is all about? Let us discuss this key aspect of the research process.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), peer review is the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted to journals by experts who are not part of the editorial staff. Peer review, which is also known as refereeing, has become an inevitable part of the quality control process, which determines whether a paper is worth publishing/funding or not.

The origin of peer review often dates back to 18th century Britain. However, it became a key part of the research process only in the second half of the 20th century, triggered by the growth of scholarly research. As the reviewers are specialized in the same field as the author, they are considered to be the author’s peers; hence, it was coined as “peer review”.

Peer Review Process

The author submits the paper to the respective journal. The Journal Editor forwards that paper to experts (reviewers) in the relevant field. These reviewers thoroughly analyze the quality of the paper, validity of the data and methods used, and the accuracy of the results. They provide their judgment on the paper whether: there is scope for improvement, it is ok as it is, or it is not worth publishing. If there are changes to be made in the paper, the reviewers list in their comments the particular areas that have scope for improvement. Then the paper is returned to the Journal Editor who sends it to the author with the appropriate decision: accepted as it is; accepted with revisions; or rejected. Accordingly, the author makes the changes and resubmits to the same journal, or resubmits to another journal.

Types of Peer Review

Peer review can be classified into three types based on the levels of transparency:

Single-blind review: In this case, the author’s identity is known to the reviewers, but not vice versa.

Double-blind review: In this case, the identities of the author and reviewers are hidden from each other.

Open peer review: Here, the author’s and reviewers’ identities are known to each other.

At present, the peer review process is implemented by a majority of scientific journals. It helps to prevent falsified work from being published. Its importance has become such that, most research are not considered to be serious stuff unless they have been validated by peer review. A peer-reviewed paper that is accepted for publication is looked upon as a work of quality. But, this process has its own disadvantages. It is an extremely time-consuming process. The long wait can be extremely frustrating for the researcher and can even jeopardize his academic progress. Moreover, sometimes the element of bias creeps into the peer review process. The reviewers’ judgment might be influenced by their own perception of things, the identity of the author, and at times, even the country of origin of the author.