Do authors trust the reviewers?

Home Q&A Do authors trust the reviewers?

A neuroscientist and her peers imagine a different system.

Portrait photo of Diana Deca

Together with her colleague Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, neuroscientist Diana Deca has gathered, analysed and summarised 18 visions imagined by scientists around the world to replace peer-review. Open evaluation could allow many experts to voice their views but any radical change should come gradually, says the researcher from Technische Universität München.

TECHNOLOGIST Many scientists agree that peer review has its flaws. Why don’t we replace it?

DIANA DECA A lot of researchers still like it – and all of them need it. You cannot tell a young researcher today not to publish in the best journal they can. It’s simply too important for their career, as hiring committee and funding agencies count the number of articles you’ve published in high-profile journals. We’re talking about several million researchers who would have to change the way they think about their work.

TECHNOLOGIST How can we make the transition?

DIANA DECA It’s still useful to have prepublication peer-review, but open evaluation after publication would allow many experts to publish their comments. It should be introduced gradually and tested to see what works best.

TECHNOLOGIST What’s the best system to replace peer-review?

DIANA DECA Our conclusion is that reviewers would have to log in. One idea would be to allow each of them to clearly state their preferences, for example the potential impact of the research, its novelty or its reliability. This way, individual users could define their own personal weightings. It would also really help if researchers would upload the raw data from their studies, to allow other scientists to do their own analysis.

TECHNOLOGIST What challenges do you see in changing the system?

DIANA DECA Designing an open review is complicated. Many options are possible: the comments can be anonymous or not, quantitative or qualitative, and could be voted on by other reviewers. It could create a huge centralised – and expensive – website. We can’t avoid the main question raised by peer-review: do authors trust the reviewers?

TECHNOLOGIST Are you working to build such new tools?

DIANA DECA Yes, we and others are. But creating the new website requires a great deal of time, energy and funding. We’re full-time researchers, so we are open to have more people joining.

Interview by Daniel Saraga

More on peer review: The seven sins of peer review

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