Nature Neuroscience is joining a consortium of journals that enables reviews to be transferred from one journal to another, while allowing authors, referees and editors to control their degree of participation in the system flexibly. The reasons for the decision are explained in this month’s (April) Editorial (Nat. Neurosci. 11, 375; 2008). Briefly, in January, a group of editors, supported by the Society for Neuroscience, implemented a system for transfer of submitted manuscripts between journals that allows voluntary participation by authors, referees and editors, known as the Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium. This consortium reduces the overall reviewing workload of the community by allowing authors to continue the initial review process when their paper moves from one consortium journal to another, once the paper has been rejected or withdrawn from the first journal. This arrangement is similar to the manuscript transfer system that has been available within the Nature family of journals , and all the other journals published by Nature Publishing Group, for almost a decade.
The neuroscience transfer system, described in detail in the Editorial and at the Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium website, is voluntary for authors and peer-reviewers. Journal editors have full discretion in deciding how to use transferred reviews. The receiving editor may choose to accept or reject a paper based on these reviews, without further consideration; to send the paper to some or all of the previous referees for evaluation of the authors’ revisions; or to request a fresh set of reviews from new referees. Only comments to the authors are transferred to the receiving journal. Confidential comments to the editors are not passed along. Thus, to ensure transparency in the review process, both at Nature Neuroscience and at other journals after the paper has been transferred, journal editors encourage referees to include all their concerns about the paper in comments to the authors. According to the Nature Neuroscience Editorial, the small amount of extra time required to phrase comments diplomatically for the authors should be more than counterbalanced by the resulting improvement in the peer-review process.
Many members of the community have strong views on the issue of confidential comments, which can be found on the Action Potential blog, and which has previously been discussed at Peer to Peer. The success of the neuroscience journals’ transfer system will be evaluated at the end of this year. Nature Neuroscience editors will also be evaluating the journal’s participation on an ongoing basis, so they encourage authors, referees and readers to share their comments with the editors, either on Action Potential blog or privately by e-mail.