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Opening Peer Review Options for Recognition, Credit, and Accountability

This year’s Peer Review Week is all about Quality in Peer Review. When we talk about quality, it’s easy to focus on the review comments themselves: are they accurate, well-written, constructive? If these were the only factors contributing to peer review quality, the solution would be more robust and accessible training resources. These tools are undoubtedly important and available, but in limiting the discussion to the comments themselves, we miss one fundamental driver of the entire process: what’s in it for reviewers?

Equal Credit

To facilitate peer review, journals need a healthy supply of external researchers willing to volunteer their time and expertise to the academic process. 

To make peer review equally rewarding for reviewers as it is for the authors who are hopeful of publicizing months of hard work and building up their scholarly profiles, we need to improve the ways we provide credit and visibility for the work of reviewers. 

Why not offer reviewers the same benefits? Earlier this year, we implemented ORCID for reviewers so that they can receive automatic, authenticated credit for their reviews in our submission system. By making the same efficient system of credit available to reviewers as we do for authors, scholarly profiles become more nuanced and we add value to the diverse contributions researchers make to science everyday. 

ORCID is very valuable to the research community since it provides a full portrait of each researcher, and not only their list of publications…By integrating this information, ORCID allows a better evaluation of researchers’ contributions in their scientific fields.

– PLOS ONE author, Patricia Pintor dos Reis

Transparent Research Record

Peer review shapes published research behind the scenes. We want to bring that work to the forefront to reveal the entire process. Published reviews let you know what effect peer review has had on the authors while signed reviews let you know who contributed. 

Transparency in the review process should make reviews focus on making the publication better and not simply be a barrier to publication 

PLOS Biology Author and PLOS Pathogens Editor, Laura Knoll

To see how published review works in action, take a look at PLOS ONE article, Changes in human peripheral blood mononuclear cell (HPBMC) populations and T-cell subsets associated with arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposures in a Bangladesh cohort. The entire decision letter is available to show the dialogue that ultimately shaped the article for publication. Every suggestion made by the reviewers is documented, alongside the response from the authors culminating in a published article.

Through broader visibility, we can demonstrate the importance of peer review, give reviewers more opportunities for recognition, and even educate students and the public about the scientific process. By elevating peer review as a recognized scholarly output, we also increase accountability and incentive to provide more high-quality comments.  

Open Science for the Future

When the sharing, reviewing, and publication of research becomes fully open, everyone benefits. To get a look at the future of Open Science practices working in concert,take a look at PLOS Biology article Intestinal delta-6-desaturase activity determines host range for Toxoplasma sexual reproduction. This article had been posted as a preprint on bioRxiv before submission, already garnering the attention of the media. Putting their work out there early helped the authors’ research get discovered, not only by their peers, but also from our staff editors who encouraged the authors to submit. 

The authors also chose to make public their peer review history public, completing a truly Open review process of important research. From preprint to publication, we readers now have a documented history of the article’s beginnings, edits, and final product. We hope to see more science open to this level of transparency, to encourage review comments on preprints themselves, and to increase opportunities for review at all stages of research-sharing.This is what the future of Open Science looks like.  

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