Got a question about peer review? Find the answer here! — R Voice

Got a question about peer review? Find the answer here!

Kakoli Majumder
Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 329 admin

As promised in my previous post, let's set the mood for the Peer Review Week celebrations by talking about peer review!

First, let's get down to the basics. What is peer review and why is it so important? As most of you probably know, peer review is essentially a quality control mechanism which journals use to ensure that only the best research is published. Any manuscript that is submitted to a journal has to go through a rigorous peer review process in which experts evaluate whether the research is publication-worthy. It's a complex process that involves multiple layers of screening and evaluation. Early career researchers often find this process confusing and anxiety arousing.

While looking for resources on peer review, I chanced upon this article that I had written a while ago where where I've collated the most common questions authors have about peer review and the decision making process at journals. Sharing it here as many of you might find it useful:

Do you have a question about peer review that you couldn't find in this article? If so, please share it in the comments below and let's try to answer them as a community.

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Comments

  • Azzeddine REGHAIS
    Azzeddine REGHAIS Member Posts: 18 ✭✭

    I always encourage your suggestions @Kakoli Majumder

    Indeed, your proposal is at the heart of the research

    When you look by the eyes of a reviewer, let's say, you add to yourself a prior knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the research

    You will always answer of any question that can be asked about your research, making it sound and valid research from the start

    Salutations

  • Azzeddine REGHAIS
    Azzeddine REGHAIS Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited September 14

    Dear colleagues, you can find some precious resources on peer review here🙂:

    https://webofscienceacademy.clarivate.com/learn/signin

  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 329 admin

    Thanks for sharing the resource @Azzeddine REGHAIS. The Clarivate Web of Science Academy has several excellent courses, and I'd specifically recommend taking this one:

    It's a great course for early career researchers and includes information about different types of peer review, ethical issues around peer review as well as responding to peer reviewer comments. And the best part is that it takes only about 30 minutes to complete!

  • Mdumiseni Mdumiseni Mazula
    Mdumiseni Mdumiseni Mazula Member Posts: 69 ✭✭✭

    Hello to everyone to the community thank you so much for writing for me I am honestly don't have a question about the peer review at this time or moment.

  • Yufita Chinta
    Yufita Chinta Member Posts: 163 ✭✭✭✭

    I am not sure whether it is right or not to write my question down here but let me. If I have a chance to re-question later to the proper person during the Peer Review Week, I will do so.

    I've read your article @Kakoli Majumder and found an interesting point that "the editor sees the value of the manuscript, so he/she seeks the scientific comments to improve the quality". This point is true. The process, however, sometimes is not that simple.

    I have experienced a rejection decision after 4 months of waiting. The decision was based on 4 reviewers' comments, which some of the comments were harsh. I monitored the manuscript status, which was changing almost every week. I guess that the editor kept trying to get the second, third, and fourth opinions before the final decision, maybe because he/she saw the value of the manuscript or just followed the journal procedures. If it was because of the potential of the manuscript value, I thank the editor for the efforts. But waiting for 4 months for a rejection decision with harmful comments was heartbreaking. I understand that journals have various time limits for reviewers to complete their evaluations. In my case, four months were used, which is the longest term until the first decision I've ever got. Then, my question is whether the editor has a limitation of how long and how many opinions he/she should seek to make the final decision.

  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 329 admin

    Based on my interactions with authors and editors for over a decade, I think your understanding of the situation is correct - the editor probably saw value in your manuscript, which is why they sent it for multiple rounds of peer review because they wanted to give your manuscript a fair chance. I also see how the whole process of waiting for months only to receive a rejection and some harsh comments on your manuscript can be extremely demotivating. I have experienced a similar situation where my manuscript was rejected after 3 months without even a peer review, although, to be fair, I did not receive any harsh comments - just a templated rejection letter. However, this was also depressing for me because even after 3 months of waiting, I did not receive any feedback on my manuscript, and hence had no way to improve it. In fact, in some fields, mathematics and economics for instance, the time to first decision is even longer - sometimes more than a year. One of the biggest problems with peer review is perhaps its time-consuming nature. there have been numerous conversations around this in academic circles and I hope the peer review process becomes faster in the future.

    To answer your question, I've not come across any evidence to show that journals specify limitations to the time or the number of opinions an editor can seek. However, in general, editors would perhaps use 2-3 rounds of review before arriving at a decision- it is in fact, difficult to find reviewers, so delays may also be caused if a reviewer does not submit their evaluation on time and then the editor has to start afresh and look for another reviewer. My view is that editors would try their best to not exceed the average time to first decision mentioned on the journal website. However, in case of unavailability of reviewers, there could be delays. Perhaps someone with an editorial experience would be able to answer your question better. Tagging @Erin Owens @Leonardo Anesio @chris leonard @Omololu FAGBADEBO - hope you can shed some light on this.

  • Omololu FAGBADEBO
    Omololu FAGBADEBO Member Posts: 190 ✭✭✭

    @Yufita Chinta, after 4 months? You are lucky! I got mine after two years! Even though I was upset and discouraged, I picked it up and sent it elsewhere where it was published. Yes, @Kakoli Majumder is right that for the editor to have decided to send the manuscript for peer review, means there is merit. As an Associate Editor, I have had the cause to supervise the peer review of several manuscripts and I discovered that reviewers have different perspectives. Some comments are very harsh. But the Associate Editor must make a holistic assessment of the manuscript to ascertain its merit. Not all rejected manuscripts are bad. I have had the cause to ensure that a manuscript, recommended for rejection by two reviewers, scaled through because I have the knowledge of the field and knew that the author was on the right track. With just a few amendments, I recommended it for publication I just sent it to other reviewers who were able to identify the few lapses. Even though I have suffered from what I regarded as an unjust rejection, but I continue to make contributions that would encourage others. No one has it all. The essence of peer review is to straighten the manuscript through critical assessment and suggestions. This is my understanding of peer review.

    One thing at a time😍

  • Omololu FAGBADEBO
    Omololu FAGBADEBO Member Posts: 190 ✭✭✭

    @Yufita Chinta, with regards to your question on "whether the editor has a limitation of how long and how many opinions he/she should seek to make the final decision", it depends on the editorial policy. But from my experience, the Associate Editor will make decisions when satisfied with the quality of responses to the reviewer's comments. The duration depends largely on the responses from reviewers. At times, you assign a manuscript to reviewers and wait for months even though there was a stipulated time for reviewers to submit their comments. Ideally, at least two reviewers' comments are required to make a decision. I can tell you that it is not easy to get these two responses within the stipulated time! Some would accept and do nothing, some would decline outrightly. The problem mostly is with the reviewers.

    One thing at a time😍

  • Kakoli Majumder
    Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 329 admin

    Agree with you @Omololu FAGBADEBO, it's often hard to find reviewers and harder to get them to submit on time. But I feel that it helps if the journal communicates to the author and updates the status to show the progress of the manuscript - that would be reassuring for the author.

  • Omololu FAGBADEBO
    Omololu FAGBADEBO Member Posts: 190 ✭✭✭

    Yes, @Kakoli Majumder, I agree with you. But it is not as easy The system will always send reminders several times without a response from reviewers. At times, the system would invite reviewers. Securing other reviewers takes several months. Colleagues are interested in publishing in peer review journals but do not want to serve as reviewers. We have suggested elsewhere that maybe if peer review is associated with incentives, then there could be an improvement.

    One thing at a time😍

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 233 ✭✭✭

    @Omololu FAGBADEBO @Yufita Chinta @Azzeddine REGHAIS - Your comments have been extremely insightful and thanks to @Kakoli Majumder for initiating an essential conversation as this!

    I am aghast to know review comments took 2 years for you Omolulu!! That is ridiculous I feel. I genuinely appreciate how you all are such kind reviewers🤗. Thanks to such reviewers, publishing is a better and kinder place than what it was a decade ago (when reviewer were actually expected to be harsh and insensitive in their comments, AFAIE).

    Regarding incentivising peer-review which @Omololu FAGBADEBO has mentioned, many here have raised theiRVoice on several discussions regarding peer-review. @Kakoli Majumder - Please consider conducting a webinar on this topic, with editors from various publishing houses, in trying to answer why this hasn't been addressed till date. This would also help resolve the shortage of reviewers and take some burden off the shoulders of those who are voluntarily involved in this service of scientific/academic advancement.