What does better peer review look like? Findings from 132
journals completing a self-assessment exercise
Aim: We wanted to understand how well journal teams, comprising editors, managing editors, reviewers and publishers, perform across five Essential Areas of peer review according to a self-assessment of their own editorial and peer review processes. We also wanted to identify and share the best practices that journals use and recognise potential obstacles that could be overcome.
Methods: Journals used a Self-Assessment tool to assess their peer review processes by answering questions and giving themselves a quantitative score and providing a qualitative explanation for their rating, across the five ‘Essential Areas’ of Integrity, Ethics, Fairness, Usefulness and Timeliness. Wiley colleagues independently rated the journals to distinguish best practices and identify potential obstacles.
Results: We examined the responses of 132 journals which completed the Self-Assessment exercise. Journals tended to rate themselves more highly than the study authors did. The greatest variation in rating between journal self-rating (SA-score) and the study authors’ rating (R-score) was in the Essential Area of Usefulness, with the smallest variation in the area of Ethics. We identified a set of best practices that could help improve peer review in each of the Essential Areas.
Conclusion: The Self-Assessment encourages journals to reflect on and change their peer review processes and offers practical guidance on how to do this. They benefit from greater awareness of technical solutions that exist to help them in this. The Self-Assessment also highlights how journals can be inconsistent in the way that their processes operate, with one policy in place for authors and a different or no policy in place for reviewers/editors. Rather than be content with the status quo, journals should strive to improve processes in the light of changing community expectations and technological advances.