Peer-Review: A publisher’s perspective- part 3

In celebration of Peer Review Week 2017 we have spoken to SAGE representatives across our global offices about peer review; its value, how it is changing, as well as the ethics and the challenges surrounding the academic practice. In this third and final part Kristen Marchetti, Associate Director Peer Review, considers what the future holds for the peer review process.

When considering the future of peer review several themes seem to consistently emerge, and perhaps it’s because my work is particularly focused on our online manuscript submission and peer review systems, two topics which I find particularly compelling are: 1) the ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) can enhance the peer review process, and 2) the move towards greater transparency.

First, let’s talk about AI. When we consider the use of big data it seems inevitable that we will continue to develop ways of leveraging AI to streamline and expedite the peer review processes of our academic journals. Are there ways in which papers can more effectively be matched to relevant journals? Are there better and more accurate ways in which we can match reviewers to relevant papers? These are the types of questions that we’re asking and while there are certainly services and tools available now that do some of this, there’s scope for further development.  We’re interested in looking at ways to help save time for authors, editors and reviewers, though it’s important to note that we want to do this without sacrificing quality, and our online peer review systems play an important role in this area. The idea of integrating AI can be a concerning one for many people because of the impersonality that AI connotes, but in my view AI should and could be used as a tool to enhance the peer review process. The question that really remains is when.

Secondly, in an era of ‘alternative facts’ it’s more important than ever that we consider our sources of information and in the field of academic journal publishing, the peer review process acts as the current gatekeeper of credible, replicable and accurate research (read more about the value of peer review in maintaining high-quality research outputs in part 1 of this series). However, one of the overarching questions surrounding peer review is – who is conducting it? Would greater transparency in the process enable it to be more trusted, more accurate, or would greater transparency lead to discrimination against the article and therefore the process of peer review? Most agree that more transparency will be better.

Currently our journals provide authors with specific information in the manuscript submission guidelines outlining that journal’s peer review processes and policies. Initiatives like Publons, of which SAGE is a partner, allow researchers to more transparently showcase their reviewing contributions with others, and the use of ORCID identifiers allows researchers to clearly display their authorship activities. That’s a great start, but there’s room for more growth in this area. As the industry continues to experiment with various modes and models of openness and transparency in peer review, our online manuscript submission and peer review systems will be there to support the move towards greater transparency.

Peer review is admittedly an imperfect system but there’s an active and engaged community working together to advocate for improvement and drive change. While I’ve just managed to scratch the surface on these two topics I’d encourage you to join in the conversation by considering what transparent peer review means to you. Happy Peer Review Week!

Check out all of SAGE’s Peer Review Week activities here.

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