Peer Review Week 2022: If Research Integrity is About Research, What Part Does Peer Review Play?

This week is Peer Review Week, “a community-led yearly global virtual event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining research quality,” and a time of joy for Cabells. Protecting research quality and integrity is at the core of our mission, and supporting initiatives around this issue is very important to us. Our work as a company in researching and evaluating journals and providing key information on their peer review processes, among many other things, is built on this foundation – protecting and facilitating, however we can, research integrity.

Peer Review Week (PRW) brings together stakeholders from all corners of scholarly communications to champion peer review and the critical role that it plays, share innovations and research, and strengthen best practices. Cabells was excited not only to join the PRW Steering Committee to help guide this week’s efforts, but to also attend and serve as sponsors of the Ninth International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication, held earlier this month in Chicago. We’re way into peer review.  

Cabells CEO, Lacey Earle, at the 9th International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication, held earlier this month in Chicago.

So, we wanted to get even a bit more involved with the proceedings and thought this would be the perfect time to share some of our experiences and thoughts about the state of peer review as things now stand in scholarly and medical communications, and hopefully answer the question:

  •  If research integrity is about research, what part does peer review play?

I was recently able to virtually gather with a few members of our team – Sheree Crosby, Kathleen Berryman, and Dr. Julia Neufeind – to consider ideas such as:

  • What makes good peer review? Does the answer differ slightly, depending upon the role of the individual—author, researcher, editor, publisher, the industry as a whole?
  • Whose responsibility is it to ensure the peer review process is sound and working like it should?
  • What are the some of the problems, and potential solutions, in peer review today?

Our experts touched on these and other important issues around peer review:

  • The need for increased transparency in peer review with documentation and accountability in place
  • The lack of training for reviewers on how to perform efficient and effective peer review
  • How best to reduce biases, to whatever degree possible, that are inherent in the peer review process (and the human condition)
  • The lack of a standardized system within the industry to establish a uniform and consistent format for peer review and the resulting output
  • Managing expectations on the timing of reviews, with reviewers having to find time in their workday (or outside of it) to conduct reviews

Ideas on how to move peer review forward, building upon existing initiatives and innovations, strengthening its position as the backbone of quality research were also discussed:

  • The need to establish training or mentoring programs in peer review, particularly involving early career researchers
  • Should some form of peer review training be added to Ph.D. programs, equipping researchers with a foundation to perform effective peer review?
  • The creation of an agreement on acceptable industry standards and practices for peer review
  • The expansion of peer review networks and platforms to champion further innovation, including potential new models for peer review, guidelines, and training
  • Establishing data sharing and privacy policies

The discussion was wide-ranging and was edited quite a bit for the sake of digestibility – the seed for future webinars from our team examining peer review and other important issues in scholarly communication has been planted. We were really excited to come together to take a look at peer review to consider our experiences and the current landscape. Hopefully ours and other discussions like it on peer review will lead to more improvements and innovations in the process, and will serve to elevate scholarly and research communications across the board.