The Journal of Biology (8, 1; 2009) has announced an experimental policy of allowing authors of submitted manuscripts to opt-out of re-revew on occasions where the peer-reviewers require revisions, including the addition of data. In these cases, the journal will not publish the referees’ reports with the manuscript, but instead will publish an accompanying commentary.
This adds a new model of peer-review to those previously described in Nature‘s peer-review debate of 2006. Journals using unusual forms of peer-review system include Biology Direct, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Signaling Gateway (a database publication), Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence, and the BioMed Central (BMC) journals – BMC publishes Journal of Biology. Further discussion on systems of peer-review since 2006 is archived in a series of posts on this blog.
It will be interesting to see how the Journal of Biology experiment is received by readers and peer-reviewers (no doubt that it will be popular with authors). As well as the question of the accuracy of pubished papers whose authors have not addressed technical criticisms, there is also the question of motivation of peer-reviewers to write detailed reports, if they know their advice can, if the author wishes, go unheeded. Particularly strange to me is the decision by the journal not to publish the referees’ reports with the unrevised manuscript, but instead to publish an independent commentary. Will this commentary always accompany publication of incomplete manuscripts, or might it be delayed? Will it be written by one of the peer-reviewers, or if not, by someone who has access to the reports?
The Nature journals’ peer-review policy and procedures are described here. This web page contains an archive of free-to-access editorials in many Nature journals that discuss aspects of the peer-review system and process.