Discussion is heating up regarding a new proposal that could change the face of peer review in neuroscience. At the PubMed Plus leadership conference this past June, sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience, the creation of a Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium was proposed.
Here is a message from SfN president David Van Essen describing the vision for this new entity:
After an article is rejected by one journal and authors are ready to submit a revised manuscript to another journal, they will have the opportunity and the option to request that the reviews from the first journal be passed directly to the new journal (assuming that both journals are part of the consortium). In many cases, the second journal will be able to reach a decision faster and more efficiently, thereby benefiting authors as well as the overly stressed manuscript reviewing system.
This revolutionary proposal is now a reality, at least for a trial run from January to December 2008. It will clearly benefit just about everyone in the community, including authors, reviewers and editors. The idea came from journal editors who saw that many technically solid manuscripts were being rejected because of space limitations or because the articles were not appropriate for their journals. After rejection, a new submission leads to another time-consuming review process, often with new referees, swelling the workload of the community.
But to make this new system work, the member journals had to agree on certain protocols to ensure that the inner workings of the journals are roughly similar. That way, the transfer process can go smoothly. One of those criteria got me thinking about our current review process. That is the “Confidential Comments” box. In order to join the consortium, journals will have to forego confidential comments.
For those of you who have not done much reviewing, many journals provide the opportunity not only to include a review of the manuscript for the authors, but also to communicate any additional feelings or opinions directly to the editors with confidence that the authors will not see these comments.
Although it is already clearly stated in our reviewing guidelines that the confidential comments and authors’ comments should match, sometimes they do not, which can put the editors in a difficult position. Obviously, ethical concerns and other issues of this sort need to be dealt with in a more private manner (as the consortium rules permit), but these issues only arise rarely.
We have had long discussions (arguments) in our editorial meetings about the benefits and disadvantages of confidential comments, and now want to hear what the community thinks. What is your opinion as an author? As a reviewer? Why should we continue to invite confidential comments? Why should they be banned? How can we improve our use of confidential comments to help us make good decisions while maintaining transparency with authors about the reasons for our decisions?
Further discussion here.