2015 was another exciting year for BMJ Open, with over 1500 articles published. Since launching in 2011, we have published over 4000 articles, and we look forward to February, when the journal will celebrate its fifth anniversary.
In December we surveyed our staff editors, who oversee and manage the peer review process, to tell us about their favourite articles from 2015. We managed to narrow the list down to seven editors’ picks, and we will be presenting the results over the next few days.
Peer Review Models: which work the best?
Whilst peer review is entrenched as the ‘gold standard’ used by medical journals to assess the quality and validity of submitted research, many different models of peer review are used and surprisingly little research has been carried out to examine just how effective these models are. In a study by Maria Kowalczuk and colleagues from the Open Access Publisher BioMed Central, the quality of reviewer reports were analysed and compared between two journals that had different peer review models, namely ‘open’ peer review and ‘single-blind’ peer review. They also compared the quality of reviewer reports within a single journal that had switched from open to single-blind peer review. The authors found that the quality of reviewer reports were 5% higher on average in the open peer review journal compared to the single-blind review journal, a difference that was statistically significant. However, no differences in report quality were found in the journal that had operated under both peer review models. The findings suggest that open peer review may lead to higher quality reviewer reports on average, or at the very least does not lead to a decline in report quality as some people have feared it would. The authors also found differences in the recommendations of author-suggested and non-author-suggested reviewers, with author-suggested reviewers recommending acceptance significantly more frequently than non-author-suggested reviewers. This suggests that caution should be taken by editors when making decisions based on author-suggested reviews alone.
BMJ Open operates a fully open peer review process where authors and reviewers are made aware of each other’s identity. We also publish the reviewer reports and authors’ responses along with the accepted manuscript. By prioritising transparency in the process, we believe our model opens up the ‘black box’ of peer review. It also gives authors greater incentive to produce high quality reports and makes reviewers more accountable.