PLOS ONE Launches a New Peer Review Form

Today PLOS ONE launches a new peer review form. While this might not sound like much of an announcement, the fact that our reviewer board currently contains over 400,000 scientists, and grows by the hour, means that an awful lot of people will see this form over the coming months!

The purpose of the form is to better direct and streamline the review process by focusing on our specific publication criteria. The job of the PLOS ONE reviewer is not to decide whether the study represents a significant advance to the field, or whether additional experiments need to be performed to increase the impact, or whether it is suitable for a broad interest journal. The reviewer must simply ascertain whether the study has been performed correctly, and whether the data support the conclusions. So that’s what we ask reviewers in the form. The form also addresses some of our other criteria, like whether the manuscript adheres to data sharing standards and whether the manuscript is written in intelligible standard English. By limiting the focus of the reviewers in this way, we hope to reduce the burden that many reviewers feel, and (hopefully) speed up the time it takes to review.

We know that academics spend an enormous amount of time reviewing papers. But while it increases the workload of already busy people, the majority would agree that it is a vital part of the scientific process, and a necessary part of the job. The hardest part of a traditional review is making the recommendation on whether the study represents a significant enough advance to meet the journal’s criteria for acceptance, and this is the thing that most holds up the evaluation of manuscripts. Remove that part, and review should be quicker, less cumbersome and easier – but, and here’s the kicker, will have no discernible effect on the literature as a whole. Papers that are ‘right’ will always be published somewhere, but it may take a year to find that place due to the endless rejection cycle of most journals. So the innovation of PLOS ONE was to remove this step, and it was immensely successful. Now all we need to do is remind people of this fact when they submit their review. The form aims to do just that, and we believe it takes us a step closer to the ideal of publishing ‘right’ studies with minimal fuss and maximal efficiency.

We haven’t created too many check boxes, drop-down menus or word limits. There are just four required questions about whether the submission meets our criteria, and plenty of flexibility to let reviewers include specific comments as needed. You can read more about the specifics of the form here, and please contact plosone@plos.org with any questions or feedback.

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7 Responses to PLOS ONE Launches a New Peer Review Form

  1. alek says:

    Maybe it could be interesting for you:

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/11/prweb10164668.htm

    Best,
    Alex

    p.s. sorry, this is the correct link.

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  2. But this is not the scientific community’s task: this is editing! The scientific community’s responsibility, and that is why we do it without being paid, is to acknowledge the scientific quality of the papers and their contribution to the increment of knowledge. The rest is left for editors and publishers. Publishers, open access or traditional, have the wrong idea about the role of researchers in the publishing process: we are being transformed in a unpaid workforce to edit papers. This is just not our job.

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  4. Pingback: From Peer Review to the Wisdom of Crowds? Open Access & Peer Review | History Workshop

  5. The uploading procedures should be friendly for the people used.

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  6. Paul Blanchon says:

    To provide a rigorous appraisal of the science of any paper requires more than the form presently covers. Here are the bare minimum requirements:

    1. Structure–Is the paper clear, well organized, and understandable (ie. does the english compromise clarity)?

    2. Scholarship–Does it take into account relevant current and past research on the topic?

    3. Data Quality–Are the methods and analyses sound and appropriate? Are uncertainties dealt with objectively and openly, or are they left unstated?

    4. Conclusions–Are the claims and/or scientific argument sufficiently sound and supported by the evidence? Are counter-arguments or contrary evidence taken into account? Are they preferable to competing hypotheses?

    Saludos,
    Paul.

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  7. Meg Byrne says:

    Paul,

    Thank you for your feedback about the reviewer form. While reviewers must evaluate many aspects of a scientific manuscript when considering its suitability for publication, our form aims to focus reviewers’ attention on PLOS ONE‘s specific publication criteria.

    Many of the reviewer form questions overlap with the items you listed. For instance, we ask reviewers to evaluate whether the manuscript is presented in an intelligible fashion and written in standard English. If a manuscript is unclear or poorly organized, we hope that the question would prompt reviewers to comment on this.

    We also ask reviewers to consider whether the manuscript describes a technically sound piece of scientific research with data that support the conclusions. We remind reviewers that for studies to be publishable in PLOS ONE, experiments must be conducted rigorously, with appropriate controls, replication, and sample sizes, and the conclusions must be drawn appropriately based on the data presented.

    Your point about reference to the existing literature is well made, and we will consider adding a question to address this in future iterations of the form. Again, we very much appreciate feedback on the reviewer form, and hope to continue discussion of possible improvements with our editorial board, as well as authors and reviewers.

    Best regards,
    Meg Byrne, Staff Editor, PLOS ONE

    On behalf of the PLOS ONE editorial staff

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