Integrity: An Essential Area for Better Peer Review

March 5, 2019 Chris Graf

What does better peer review look like? A group of dedicated Wiley colleagues began exploring this question 18 months ago. We published what we learned about what makes better peer review in the peer-reviewed journal Learned Publishing in January 2019, after we first shared an extended, earlier version of our work in a preprint.

Our starting point was to consider the whole peer review publishing process, not just the act of peer review itself. Then we identified five “essential areas” as a lens through which to consider the entire peer reviewed publishing process: Integrity, Ethics, Fairness, Usefulness, and Timeliness.

Over the five blog posts in the series, we will be discussing and sharing case studies from journal editors.  We also have developed a checklist of self-assessment questions for journal teams to use, to reflect on their work with peer reviewers, to reflect on their editorial policies, and to reflect on their work with authors. Our goal was to enable journal teams to identify areas where their practice is great, and areas where they may want to make improvements.

We recently spoke with Laura Mitchell, an Associate Journals Editor for Pest Management Science and Polymer International at Wiley, on the topic of integrity as it relates to peer review.

Q. Laura, the definition we chose for the essential area of “Integrity” is that “peer review addresses the integrity of the work under review when it focuses on ensuring that researchers publish an accurate, verifiable, and complete representation of how they did their work and the outcome.”

What do you think better peer review looks like when it comes to integrity?

A.  In an environment of uncertainty about which news and which experts to trust, integrity in peer review is vital to the quality and accuracy of published research. Following the guidance from the article and finding inspiration in the case studies from the preprint can make it easier for everyone involved in the peer review process. The benefit of this? A peer review system that we can all rely on and be proud of.

Q. What practical steps can journals take to enhance integrity?

A.  We can educate and support reviewers on how to write effective reviews. We can designate editors and advisory board members to provide expertise on certain areas (like statistics). We can have clear, impartial processes in place to handle questions when they arise about the integrity of published research. We can encourage, and perhaps expect, authors to share research data in a data repository.

Q. What role can publishers play in helping journals succeed in this?

A.  Many of the issues around integrity can be improved through further education of editors, reviewers and authors. Publishers are uniquely placed to provide helpful guidance to all these groups. Since publishers play a key role in the curation of published research, improving the quality and validity of this research is particularly important. Peer review can deliver that. By continuing to support initiatives such as Registered Reports and Open Science Badges, publishers can give journals the tools to lead change in positive directions.

Thank you, Laura.

Journal team members who are interested in making their peer review processes better can read our article, published under a Creative Commons license by Learned Publishing. We have created a Better Peer Review Self-Assessment tool, derived from this work.

With our Better Peer Review Self-Assessment you can record your reflections on your current practices, and you can plan new directions. You will receive an immediate summary of your results, then we’ll followup with your total score by quartile, your Better Peer Review Badge and Data Visualization. And there’s more: Our Better Peer Review Self-Assessment works if you’re based inside Wiley or outside Wiley at one of the many societies and associations for which we’re proud to publish. Ask your Wiley publisher for more information! We hope you find the whole Better Peer Review experience useful, and that you’re able to identify areas for new directions and improvements to peer review at your journal.


About the Author

Chris Graf

Director, Research Integrity and Publishing Ethics at Wiley // Director, Research Integrity and Publishing Ethics at Wiley, and is Co-Chair of COPE, Committee on Publication Ethics (an elected and voluntary position for which he will serve a 2-year term). Chris leads initiatives at Wiley that focus on transparency, research integrity and publishing ethics.

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