Identity is inherently entwined within the peer review process by virtue of the numerous models available, which results in varying levels of anonymity for individuals involved in the process. This blog post looks at five peer review models currently in use, describing what they mean for authors, reviewers and editors, and examines the various benefits and consequences of each.
Single Anonymised Peer Review
We start with the most commonly used and well-established peer review model. In Single Anonymised Peer Review the author’s identity is known to both the editor and the reviewers, with the reviewers’ identities remaining hidden from the authors. This is the simplest model to implement and, because it is well-established, is easily understood by all of the individuals involved in the process. Reviewers are protected and can feel comfortable being candid in their assessments should constructive negative feedback be required. However, authors are not protected from any conscious or unconscious biases the reviewers or editors may hold, and decisions could be influenced by judgements based on their name, institution, or other identifying information.
Double Anonymised Peer Review
Incorporating an additional layer of anonymity, Double Anonymised Peer Review ensures that the author’s identity is hidden from reviewers and that reviewer identities are hidden from authors. The journal editor is the only individual with oversight of author and reviewer names, protecting both the authors from potential bias during the review process, and reviewers from any potential repercussions from making less favourable comments. This can be particularly important for early career researchers who are reviewing the work of influential senior researchers in the field.
Triple Anonymised Peer Review
Journals using the Triple Anonymised Peer Review model ensure that author identities are hidden from the journal editor as well as from reviewers, and reviewer identities remain hidden from authors. The editorial office has oversight of all reviewer and author names, but the decision-making editors do not.
Unfortunately, anonymity is not guaranteed in either double or triple anonymised peer review: it can be easy for reviewers to guess an author’s identity should they work in a particularly niche field, or even for authors to guess a reviewer’s identity based on their comments, and there is an additional burden for authors and the editorial office staff to ensure that all work is sufficiently anonymised at the outset before it is submitted for peer review.
Non-anonymised Peer Review
Also known as Open Peer Review, in journals using this model the author, reviewer, and editor identities are known and shared between all parties; this model maximises openness and transparency. Everyone involved in the process is incentivised to provide fair, justified, and constructive comments due to the public and open nature of the model, and reviewers can receive public recognition for the report they have provided—via services such as Publons, for example. This model can also facilitate additional dialogue between parties, for example in a collaborative peer review process where the reviewers and editor discuss the paper and provide a single agreed list of comments. This can be of great help to authors and avoids conflicting comments for improvement being provided by individual reviewers and editors.
Transparent Peer Review
The Transparent Peer Review model can vary depending on how individual journals choose to operate. The review process itself can be conducted in any of the methods described above (Non-, Single, Double, or Triple Anonymised), but once a paper is accepted the reviewer comments are published alongside the final manuscript. A combination of the original submission, author’s response to reviewers, and editor comments may also be published, providing additional context for the article and demonstrating the positive improvements which have been made as a result of peer review.
This model increases transparency of the peer review system whilst allowing protection of the identities of reviewers and authors before acceptance (depending on the review model used) and can be flexible according to the priorities of authors, reviewers and editors. Some journals using this model offer optional Transparent Peer Review without it being required; authors have the option to publish the reviewer comments they received during the peer review process, and reviewers have the option to reveal their identity and receive public recognition for their work on that particular manuscript.
Whilst the Transparent Peer Review model can provide the flexibility for authors and reviewers to choose their own preferences, it can also add complexity for journals, authors, and reviewers. It is vital to ensure absolute clarity for all parties involved around how the peer review process will operate pre-acceptance, and to set out clear policies around what exactly will be made available on publication of the final manuscript.
Oxford University Press publishes across a very broad range of disciplines in Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Science, Technology and Medicine. As such, we recognise that we cater to a diverse authorship, with peer review preferences, norms and expectations that differ depending on the field. We therefore offer a range of peer review models across our journals, in order to best meet the needs and expectations of our authors—each journal’s author guidelines contain information on which peer review model it operates under. We continue to experiment with new innovations and carefully consider models which will benefit our authors and the broader research community.
The registered report system is a relatively new and useful model of peer review. The registered report operates in two steps. First, the methods are described, reviewed, and registered in advance. Second, researchers do the work, reporting the results when the research is complete. While this technique offers several interesting advantages, it also prevents researchers from moving the goalposts under way. If methods in the final article do not conform to the registered information, changes are obvious. An article by Chris Cook titled “What’s next for Registered Reports” offers a good overview of the issues. It was published in Nature 573, pp. 187-189 (2019).
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