Mike the Mad Biologist

I came across this Science letter to the editor about a “gradual peer review process” by the associate editor for Plant Signalling and Behavior, Communicative and Integrative Biology; it’s pretty interesting:

…Many scientists–particularly those who are well established and thus in demand–are less willing to review because of the time required to evaluate the many manuscripts they receive.

In standard reviewing practice, editors send manuscripts simultaneously to several reviewers, whose comments are considered by the editor and then sent back to the author. A basic drawback to this process is that for many manuscripts, all reviewers have to spend time on a text with many problems. Moreover, making trivial corrections may distract reviewers from more substantive critiques.

…I have decided to change the classic review process into a gradual one. I send submitted manuscripts to a single reviewer and then ask the author to make revisions before I send the paper to the other reviewers. Later reviewers can thus focus on important aspects of the study rather than deal redundantly with trivial problems in the text. This process seems to result in better final papers, and it saves time for all reviewers except for the first. Because reviewer order varies, a broad adoption of this process would save time for many scientists in the form of easier reading and shorter evaluation letters to the editors. This tactic could save precious reviewing time and increase the general willingness to review manuscripts.

It seems reasonable to me, if you can find reviewers to do this.

Comments

  1. #1 James F
    October 26, 2008

    Then the review process is three times as long – no thanks. Well-established scientists can get very thorough preliminary reviews from their post-docs and students if they find themselves swamped with review requests. I could see an exception if the author submitting the manuscript voluntarily accepted gradual peer review.

  2. #2 Comrade PhysioProf
    October 26, 2008

    Yeah, this is totally fucking ridic. Peer review takes long enough as it is.

  3. #3 Janne
    October 26, 2008

    An idea with some potential. One reviewer will be faster than three (you’re always waiting for the slowest one) and clear results (it will be accepted or rejected) will be quicker as a result.

    The very real risk is when the first reviewer is one of those people that looks only at the trees, not the forest. Endless comments on style, details, suggestions for improvement, but no real feedback on whether the paper is actually considered suitable for publication in the journal or not. You’d waste a couple of months and a good deal of work revising a paper that perhaps never had a chance in the first place.

  4. #4 Shirakawasuna
    October 27, 2008

    If it’s a priority to avoid this redundancy of minor tweaks, why not just get an editor who does this (as opposed to a full reviewer)? It seems like that would be faster and you wouldn’t get bogged down in any more substantial details until actual reviewers are independently looking at it.

  5. #5 TomJoe
    October 27, 2008

    STUPID. So who cares if you’re waiting for the slowest reviewer? With this process you’d have to wait for the last bozo to turn in their review anyways … and this is after at least a single reviewer took a month or more to read it anyways. And where is the balance in a single reviewer? If said reviewer has a bug up their ass about something in the manuscript, you won’t even have the chance for 2 additional reviewers to cast a favorable light on the manuscript.

  6. #6 wesele
    October 29, 2008

    And where is the balance in a single reviewer?

  7. #7 sams
    March 31, 2012

    Hi,

    Thank you four your nice writing on An Interesting Revision of the Peer Review Process.

    Thanks.

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