By Steven Inchcoombe, Chief Publishing Officer, Springer Nature
Peer review is at the heart of the research process. Academics generously dedicate hours of their week, to examine each other’s work, offer much-valued constructive criticism and improve the published science (or maths, or social science, etc.). Reviews take time, but peer review is mostly anonymous, meaning it is difficult for reviewers’ colleagues, publishers, institutions or funders to recognise it properly.
Of course, peer review has its faults. Regardless, it is the best system we have right now for maintaining high standards and accuracy. In an age when information is everywhere, plagiarism is sadly too common and a stamp of quality is highly valued, peer review is still celebrated as a kitemark for rigor.
To celebrate peer review, a group of organizations including Springer Nature is working collaboratively to plan a week of activities and events. Today marks the first day of Peer Review Week 2016. This year’s theme is Recognition for Review, exploring all aspects of how those participating in review activity – in publishing, grant review, conference submissions, promotion and tenure, and more – could be better recognized for their contribution.
At Springer Nature we’re constantly looking to improve our peer review systems, and to find new and better ways of recognizing peer reviewers for their hard work. Our existing methods of recognition might take the form of monetary reward in the case of monographs, or incentives such as free subscriptions or discounts on Article Processing Charges. The methods of recognition researchers most commonly ask for are those which simply acknowledge the name of the reviewer, as the process is so often anonymous.
In a recent survey completed by 3886 of our reviewers, only 26% of reviewers agreed that they would like to be paid. Many expressed concerns that a monetary reward would introduce bias into the process. 67% of reviewers believed they should receive non-monetary compensation, and, rather inspirationally, 68% agreed that the knowledge of the contribution they have made to the body of scientific research is enough compensation for their time as a reviewer, confirming what we’ve always thought: academics are a generous lot.
We believe their work shouldn’t go unnoticed. Many of our journals publish lists celebrating our most frequent reviewers. At BioMed Central, 70 of our journals offer open peer review, encouraging transparency. Open peer review is also a valuable educational resource for training future peer reviewers. In the last year, BioMed Central have published over 40,000 open peer review reports, allowing 24,000 peer reviewers to be recognized for their contribution to research.
Nature Editor-in-Chief Philip Campbell writes a letter of thanks to anyone that has peer-reviewed three papers or more for the combined Nature Research portfolio. Since 2015 all of the Nature-branded research journals have offered authors the option to choose double-blind peer review. In 2016 we have additionally piloted the following initiatives: optional publication of peer-reviewer reports in Nature Communications; optional publication of peer-reviewer identities in Nature; optional transfer of peer-reviewer reports and identities from Nature Communications to other selected Springer Nature academic journals.
Another way we’re experimenting is through partnering with Publons, a network of over 75,000 experts showing their commitment to speeding up science through superior peer review. Publons is a free service for academics that lets you effortlessly track, verify and showcase your peer review activity across the world’s journals. This month we’ve started a Publons pilot across 13 of our journals. We’re also proud sponsors of their Sentinels of Science Awards which celebrate frequent peer reviewers.
We have two more pilots launching this week, experimenting with two very different types of peer review; one from BioMed Central is exploring removing potential bias from the system, the other from Springer experimenting with a new type of recognition. Watch this space for more information!
And finally, to all our reviewers around the world: in case we haven’t said it recently, thank you from the team at Springer Nature.