Alternative Peer Review Models: Through the Editor’s Lens

Is it time to rejuvenate traditional peer review models? How can we attain greater transparency, inclusivity, and efficiency in the manuscript evaluation process? We sought insights from our editors regarding their experiences with alternative approaches.

From 25-29 September 2023 we celebrate Peer Review Week (PRW), which this year explores the relationship between peer review and the future of publishing.

The evaluation of academic publications takes various forms, with single- and double-blind peer review remaining the most prevalent types. The former anonymizes only the reviewers; the latter both reviewers and authors. Additionally, there’s open peer review which – while still not very common – has been growing in the wake of the open science movement. It may involve disclosing the identities of authors and reviewers to each other, making reviewer comments publicly accessible or enabling scholars to publicly comment on published manuscripts.

As traditional models are increasingly questioned, we asked our editors for Peer Review Week 2023 if they have come across any alternative models that they felt were particularly effective or promising for the future. How can we ensure that manuscripts are judged on their merits and not on prejudices?

Words From Our Editors

“The most productive input I have witnessed lately issues from a ‘manuscript seminar.’ A finished draft is circulated to experts on that topic who come together with the author to discuss it. Academics like discussions with their peers and thus agree to participate. With multiple people, more aspects of interdisciplinary work can be properly addressed, and with an in-person/live (e.g., zoom) event, reviewers are held responsible by the presence of others to deliver useful feedback in humane ways.”

Prof. Irene Kacandes
Series Editor of the book series Interdisciplinary German Cultural Studies

“Notably based on my experience as a panel member of the European Research Council, I am in favor of open peer review in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Firstly, research tools quickly reveal authors’ identities when adequate keywords are used for the search. Secondly, evaluating Digital Humanities publications requires the detailed specification of what has been done by a researcher, from fundamental research to open research data production. Finally, it is scientifically rewarding when the examined scholar offers a response before the final decision (see the practice of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations Conference).”

Dr. Claire Clivaz
Co-editor of the book series Introductions to Digital Humanities – Religion

“In scholarly publishing peer review is extremely important, but it comes with challenges: for instance, those around anonymity in the review process. One alternative to the widespread double-blind procedure is Open Peer Review, where scholars publicly and openly comment on their colleagues’ work: the manuscript is uploaded on a website and experts in the field are invited to comment within a specific time frame. This process is more transparent, less hierarchical, as well as faster and easier for everyone involved. As is always the case with peer review, criticism must be constructive, and a third party – the publisher for instance – must ensure that is the case for each comment before it becomes public.”

Rabea Rittgerodt
Senior Acquisitions Editor History

“The traditional model of peer review can be frustrating, sometimes even arbitrary to some degree. However, in the social sciences double-blind peer review still appears to be the most effective model to me. I have not encountered an alternative where the benefits would outweigh the disadvantages. As editors we must, however, do our best to navigate the process as fair and effective as possible for authors and reviewers.”

Assoc. Prof. Michael Grothe-Hammer
Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Organizational Sociology

Have I encountered any alternative peer review models that were particularly effective? The answer is yes! The journal Frontiers in Plant Sciences grants all editorial board members direct access to selected manuscripts for peer review. Board members can independently choose which manuscripts to review, eliminating the need for invitations. This approach enables members to assess relevant manuscripts at their convenience, accelerating the review process if members commit to reviewing a specific number of manuscripts monthly/yearly.”

Dr. Shahid Hussain
Editor of the journal Open Agriculture

“A compelling alternative to traditional peer review processes is the review workshop.  Here, contributors to a big project, for instance a handbook, are invited by the editors to collaborate on their manuscripts in an online or in-person workshop. Participants have the opportunity to discuss each other’s work, providing feedback and suggestions for improvements, all moderated by the editor in real-time. This format works well for projects that require input from various fields and perspectives. It fosters fruitful exchange across diverse fields, and encourages collaborative refinement through concrete suggestions. We’ve found success with this approach in past projects and believe it holds great promise.”

Dr. Serena Pirrotta
Editorial Director Classical Studies and Philosophy

What Are Your Thoughts on the Topic?

Stay tuned for more blog posts on Peer Review Week 2023 and join the conversation on our social media channels using the hashtag #DeGruyterPRW!

[Title image by Images Plus]

The Editors

Articles signed by the editors were written in a collective effort.

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