In November 2019 two of the British Ecological Society journals, Journal of Ecology and Methods in Ecology and Evolution, began trialling a Transparent Peer Review process. This meant that (unless the authors opted out) the reviewer reports, author responses and editor decisions were made available on Publons for all of our published articles.
15 months later, we take a look back at the outcomes of the TPR pilot and the journal’s future plans for peer review.
Transparent Peer Review Process
All authors submitting to Journal of Ecology were automatically opted into the TPR scheme. However, authors were able to opt out when submitting their paper and when submitting any subsequent revisions. If authors remained with the TPR model then when their paper was published the peer review history was also made available on a page hosted by Publons. The link to this page was included in the published article. Each part of the transparent review (the reviewer reports, author responses and editor decisions) has a DOI, ensuring that each element is fully citable. You can see an example of a TPR report here.
Reviewers for the journal had the option to disclose their names or remain anonymous. Reviewers who signed their reviews were listed on Publons and could also add the DOI for their review to their ORCiD records.
Outcomes of the TPR trial
(The following statistics are from November 2019 – October 2020).
The vast majority of authors agreed to take part in the pilot. Only 13% of authors opted out of the TPR scheme.
This meant that 142 peer review histories were published in the first year of the trial!
The pilot did not appear to affect reviewer responses, with the percentage of referees agreeing to review manuscripts (36%) remaining similar to the average for the previous 3 years (37%). There was a small increase (2%) in the percentage of reviewers who did not respond to review invitations – although it is not possible to say whether this is due to the TPR pilot, the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors.
Benefits of Transparent Peer Review
Increased transparency has many benefits for peer review. It helps make the peer review process more accountable, creates opportunities for peer review training, and allows reviewers to claim specific and qualitative recognition for their reviews.
Peer Review at the BES journals
Both Journal of Ecology and Methods in Ecology and Evolution plan to continue with TPR for the next year. The BES’s newest journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence has been using a TPR process since launching in 2020. We are also eagerly awaiting the outcome of the double-blind peer review trial (in which reviewers and authors are anonymous to each other), currently being conducted by Functional Ecology.
If you would like more information or have feedback about the transparent peer review pilot, please get in touch.