How has the peer review arena changed over the past year? An update from Publons

Publons is a relatively new ‘kid on the block’ shaking up the peer review arena. Addressing the challenges around timing, it aims to speed up science by harnessing the power of peer review, and allowing reviewers to get recognition for their work. Publons’ work is an integral part in helping to not only make the debate around scientific research more open, but also key to helping formalize the idea of debate through reputational incentive. Engaging debates on peer review and encouraging increased openness around innovative scholarly issues is an important endeavor. Here at SAGE we see Publons’ work as an important missing piece in our academic publishing industry, and its product is one that will benefit SAGE and all publishers, as well as the entire academic community.

As such we are delighted to not only have an extended partnership with them to further support peer review, recognition and review, but also to be a sponsoring partner for their inaugural Peer Review awards, launching later this week. As part of Peer Review Week we have caught up with Andrew Preston, co-founder of Publons, to learn more about the key changes taking place in the peer review arena, as well as to find out what’s been happening at Publons since he spoke to us last year.peer-review-week-2016Can you tell us and our audience a little bit more about what’s new with Publons?

Sure – how long have you got?

It’s been a busy year for Publons – we’ve now got half a million reviews on Publons, from 80,000 researchers for 19,000 journals!


Andrew Preston, Co-founder of Publons

The first thing to highlight would be some of the Publisher Partnerships we’ve announced this year – including some we’re announcing this Peer Review Week. From Springer Nature and Wiley, to Thieme and IOP Publishing, we’ve developed some really key partner integrations and it’s fantastic to see major publishers – including 4 of the world’s top 7 – acknowledge the importance of their reviewers and take steps to recognise them.

We’ll have more than one thousand journals integrated into Publons by the end of the year. You can see the full list on our website.

We’ve also forged a key partnership with ScholarOne and have worked on an API which will make integrating with Publons even more seamless for journals using ScholarOne systems.

On the product side of things we’ve also got some exciting news – we recently launched our new Editor Recognition feature, where editors can now get recognition on Publons for every manuscript they handle. This is a natural next step for Publons, which has been allowing reviewers to get recognition for their work since 2013. We’re really pleased to see hundreds of editors already adding the manuscripts they’ve handled as an editor to their Publons profile (see them here).

Editor recognition is an area which, much like reviewer recognition, needs a rethink. While editors have been typically better recognised than reviewers in the past – from being named in the journal, a stipend or travel to meetings, there is still a long way to go to recognise the quantity and quality of editorial work in a way that researchers can use in their CVs, in funding applications and to further their research careers.


We often hear from researchers that they want recognition not just for the quantity of reviews that they do, but also for the quality of their reviews. The Editorial History feature makes it easy for editors to give feedback to reviewers in two ways: rating the review and providing (private) narrative feedback. Reviewers will see commendations for outstanding reviews appear on their Publons records in the near future.

And last but not least – we’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline for the next year, including a service to help Early Career Researchers learn how to become expert reviewers.

What do you think of this year’s Peer Review Week theme: ‘recognition for review’?

I think it’s great!

We believe that the work reviewers do is fundamentally important for scholarly communication, research and society as a whole. The review process brings a critical level of trust to research so it’s important that we recognised scholars for such valuable contributions.

Reviewer recognition is an issue that has been growing in importance in the last few years. Recognition is coming to the fore a central theme in research, for a number of reasons:

‘Reviewer fatigue’ has become increasingly importing in the face of increasing global research output, and researchers are increasingly voicing their frustrations at the cumbersome peer review process and concerns over review quality and reliability (here and here). Peer review efficiency and in particular recognition for review has been one of the key issues highlighted by the research community in recent years.

Lastly, some of the recent disruptive models the peer review ecosystem has seen – open review, rubriq, has increased the amount of attention review, and in particular recognition and reward for review, has received, making this year’s PRW theme particularly timely.

Historically, one of the main reasons we’ve not been able to recognise reviewers for the full scope of their contributions is because of difficulty in maintaining reviewer anonymity. Publons has been able to solve this problem with technology that allows reviewers (and editors) to get verified recognition across any publisher without compromising anonymity.  This makes peer review a first class measurable research output that can be used on your CV, in funding applications etc. We are able to talk about recognising review because it’s now possible!

Do you have anything specific planned for Peer Review Week?

Absolutely! It’s been a busy week, and a lot of fun.

To start with, you can read about new publishers integrating with Publons and check out the webinars we’ve hosted on our dedicated Peer Review Week page and on our blog.

We’re capping off the week tomorrow with the announcement of our inaugural Sentinels of Science award winners – the most prestigious accolade in peer review. We’re teaming up with a Nobel Prize winners and industry heavyweights, including SAGE Publishing, to establish Sentinels of Science as the industry standard for top honours in peer review, acknowledging the impact peer review has on research output and the wider community.

We’ve got a fantastic pool of prizes to award the:

  • Top 10% of reviewers for each major research discipline
  • Top 3 overall contributors to peer review
  • Top 3 peer review contributors from the top five reviewing countries (by number)
  • Top 3 contributing editors (most manuscripts handled, by number)
  • Top 3 recognition advocates (top 3 editors that have invited reviewers to add a review record to Publons).

The winners will be announced tomorrow (8am EST / 1pm BST) on our website and twitter feed – so watch this space!

As a community what do you think are the most pressing issues affecting peer review today?

Good question. I think I touched on some of the key issues affecting peer review today in my previous answer, though it’s interesting to have to pick one or two as to which are the most ‘pressing’.

For me I think the key issue at the moment remains reviewer fatigue.

This is a huge issue and one that is frequently raised by reviewers, authors, editors and publishers alike. I think the approaches taken to address this issue are really interesting and can be classified into three broad areas: motivating reviewers, training new reviewers and finding qualified reviewers not yet engaged with that journal/publisher.  Motivating reviewers is something that’s been discussed a lot, I think training reviewers and helping journals expand their reviewer pool is the next step. We’ve been working on The Publons Academy – a practical peer review training course for early-career researchers.  In this course Early Career researchers will learn from, and work with, experienced peer reviewers, journal editors, and Nobel Prize winners to gain experience in writing great peer reviews. You can read about our trial and pre-enroll here.

About Publons

Our mission at Publons is to speed up science by making peer review faster, more efficient, and more effective. We work with peer reviewers, editors, and publishers to motivate reviewers by giving recognition for peer review and editors.

  • For peer reviewers, Publons provides a way to get recognition for their contributions (without breaking reviewer anonymity) in a format they can include in promotion and funding applications.
  • Add the pre or post-publication reviews you’ve performed to a verified, publisher-independent profile in order to demonstrate your experience and expertise. You control how each review is displayed on your profile (blind, open, or published).
  • For editors, Publons allows you to track the individual manuscripts you handled as an editor and the reviewers you employed in vetting them.
  • With Publons, you can record the details of papers edited for any journal — in one place. Likewise, you can keep track of all reviewers you’ve worked with independent of the journals they reviewed for.
  • Your profile can then be used to create verified reports of review and editing contributions which can in turn be used to supplement promotion or funding applications.

Read about SAGE’s trial partnership with Publons here and our minority stake investment here

This post is part of SAGE’s Peer Review focused content for Peer Review Week 2016. Keep up to date during the week by following the hashtag #PeerRevWk16

Related content

Recognition for Review: Who’s Doing What?

How to solve common issues holding manuscripts back- Part 1

SAGE’s Reviewer Gateway- supporting reviewers through the peer review process

Why peer review matters to Sense about Science, the public and early career researchers

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