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Types of peer review

The three most common types of peer review are:



However, other models have evolved which include key variations from the standard approach. These include:



Let’s look at each type of peer review in more detail, together with its pros and cons.


Peer Review Variables

Single blind review

In this type of peer review the author does not know who the reviewers are. This is the most common form of peer review among science journals.


Pros

  • The anonymity allows the reviewer to be honest without fear of criticism from an author
  • Knowing who the author is (and their affiliation) allows the reviewer to use their knowledge of the author's previous research

Cons

  • Knowledge of the author may overshadow the quality of the work - potentially leading to a lack of scrutiny, especially if it's the work of an author with a dazzling track record
  • There is the potential for discrimination based on gender or nationality.Discrimination based on non-scientific criteria is clearly unacceptable, but in the case of perceived discrimination on the basis of nationality it is often conflated with discrimination on the basis of bad English. A reviewer might receive too many manuscripts written in bad English from a particular country, and might subconsciously develop a particular negative sensitivity to anything from that country. For individual researchers, the best way to rule out this kind of discrimination is to make sure that your article is written in the best possible English, thereby demonstrating sensitivity for the time and effort that a reviewer will expend on assessing it.

Double blind review

In this type of peer review the reviewers don't know the identity of authors, and vice versa. This is the most common form of peer review amongst social science and humanities journals.


Pros

  • Research is judged fairly, keeping bias out of the equation
  • Author and reviewer benefit from some level of protection against criticism

Cons

  • Anonymity isn't guaranteed, as it could be fairly straightforward to discover the identity of the author (either because of the area of research, the references or the writing style)
  • Some argue that knowledge of the author's identity helps the reviewer come to a more informed judgement - and that without this the review suffers

Open peer review

The identity of the author and the reviewers are known by all participants. There is a growing minority of journals using this form of peer review but popularity among reviewers is yet to be proven. Some journals may also publish the reviews together with final articles, and so readers see both the identity of the reviewers and their comments. This is only the case, however, with accepted articles.


Pros

  • The transparency of open peer review encourages accountability and civility, generally improving the overall quality of the review and article
  • Reviewers are more motivated to do a thorough job since their names and sometimes comments appear as part of the accepted, published article

Cons

  • Some reviewers might refuse to review for a journal using an open system, due to concerns about being identified as the source of a negative review
  • Reviewers could be reluctant to criticize the work of more senior researchers - especially if their career depends on them. In smaller research communities and in some regions of the world this could be a significant problem

Transferable peer review

This is a fairly new form of peer review which allows subject-related journals to transfer reviewed manuscripts between each other. Typically, an author submits their paper to a journal but after it has been reviewed the editors decide that although not suitable for their journal it is likely to be appropriate for a similar journal. The author is then given an option to transfer the manuscript to the other journal. It's important to note that transferring a manuscript does not guarantee acceptance in the other journal. If the author agrees to the transfer, all manuscript files, metadata and reviewer report forms are sent to the receiving journal.


Pros

  • One of the main benefits of this model is immediately providing the author with an alternative outlet for their work - potentially speeding up the publication process
  • From an editorial perspective, where there is a group of journals part-owned by a society or publisher, it keeps the work within the 'family' of titles
  • It reduces the burden on the community of reviewers

Cons

  • Editors of the receiving journal might not actually want to receive more submissions (if they already have a high volume of papers) or feel that the work is appropriate
  • This system could be frustrating for authors if, after transfer, the editor of the alternate journal decides the manuscript is not suitable

Wiley has a number of transferable peer review arrangements in place including a program cross 9 neuroscience journals - click here for details.


Some of Wiley’s open access journals participate in a Manuscript Transfer Program. Following review in a supporting journal, suitable rejected articles along with comments from referees may be transferred for publication in a Wiley Open Access journal. Authors are able to automatically transfer their manuscript to the open access journal and complete the submission process.


The Transplant Peer Review Network (Tx PRN) is a collaborative consortium formed to ease the burden on peer reviewers, improve the publication process for authors, and reduce the time and effort involved in the peer review of transplantation research by sharing peer review with other journals participating in the Network. More detailed information can be found at www.wileytxnetwork.com.


Peer Review at Wiley Infographic

Collaborative review

This covers a broad variety of approaches in which a team of people work together to undertake the review. One format is to have two or more reviewers work together to review the paper, discuss their opinions and submit a unified report. Another approach is to have one or more reviewers collaborate with the author to improve the paper, until it reaches a publishable standard.


Pros

  • It can feel more constructive and less restrictive than more traditional approaches to peer review, as it removes the barriers that silo authors and reviewers

Cons

  • There is a risk of losing the benefit of having two, or more, independent evaluations
  • Collaboration between authors and reviewers also creates the risk of blurring the distinction between authoring and appraisal

Post publication review

With this type of peer review, the option for appraisal and revision of a paper continues - or occurs - after publication. This may take the form of a comments page or discussion forum alongside the published paper. Crucially, post publication peer review does not exclude other forms of peer review and is usually in addition to, rather than instead of, pre-publication review.


Pros

  • This approach reflects the evolving nature of knowledge
  • It gives the opportunity for papers to be corrected or improved

Cons

  • Revising papers after publication is incompatible with the notion of the version of record, which seems integral to the current model of contextualizing new research through citation of previous literature
  • Shortcomings and errors within published material have traditionally been addressed through corrections and errata, and through published discussion (e.g. letters to the editor)