Innovative Strategies for Peer Review

Author : Edward Barroga

Peer review is a crucial part of research and publishing. However, it remains imperfect and suffers from bias, lack of transparency, and professional jealousy. It is also overburdened by an increasing quantity of complex papers against the stagnant pool of reviewers, causing delays in peer review.

Additionally, many medical, nursing, and healthcare educators, peer reviewers, and authors may not be completely familiar with the current changes in peer review. Moreover, reviewer education and training have unfortunately remained lacking.

This is especially crucial since current initiatives to improve the review process are now influenced by factors other than academic needs. Thus, increasing attention has recently focused on ways of streamlining the peer review process and implementing alternative peer-review methods using new technologies and open access models.

This article aims to give an overview of the innovative strategies for peer review and to consider perspectives that may be helpful in introducing changes to peer review. Critical assessments of peer review innovations and incentives based on past and present experiences are indispensable.

A theoretical appraisal must be balanced by a realistic appraisal of the ethical roles of all stakeholders in enhancing the peer review process.

As the peer review system is far from being perfect, identifying and developing core competencies among reviewers, continuing education of researchers, reviewer education and training, and professional engagement of the scientific community in various disciplines may help bridge gaps in an imperfect but indispensable peer review system.

URL : Innovative Strategies for Peer Review


Data-sharing recommendations in biomedical journals and randomised controlled trials: an audit of journals following the ICMJE recommendations

Authors : Maximilian Siebert, Jeanne Fabiola Gaba, Laura Caquelin, Henri Gouraud, Alain Dupuy, David Moher, Florian Naudet


To explore the implementation of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) data-sharing policy which came into force on 1 July 2018 by ICMJE-member journals and by ICMJE-affiliated journals declaring they follow the ICMJE recommendations.


A cross-sectional survey of data-sharing policies in 2018 on journal websites and in data-sharing statements in randomised controlled trials (RCTs).


ICMJE website; PubMed/Medline.

Eligibility criteria

ICMJE-member journals and 489 ICMJE-affiliated journals that published an RCT in 2018, had an accessible online website and were not considered as predatory journals according to Beall’s list. One hundred RCTs for member journals and 100 RCTs for affiliated journals with a data-sharing policy, submitted after 1 July 2018.

Main outcome measures

The primary outcome for the policies was the existence of a data-sharing policy (explicit data-sharing policy, no data-sharing policy, policy merely referring to ICMJE recommendations) as reported on the journal website, especially in the instructions for authors.

For RCTs, our primary outcome was the intention to share individual participant data set out in the data-sharing statement.


Eight (out of 14; 57%) member journals had an explicit data-sharing policy on their website (three were more stringent than the ICMJE requirements, one was less demanding and four were compliant), five (35%) additional journals stated that they followed the ICMJE requirements, and one (8%) had no policy online. In RCTs published in these journals, there were data-sharing statements in 98 out of 100, with expressed intention to share individual patient data reaching 77 out of 100 (77%; 95% CI 67% to 85%).

One hundred and forty-five (out of 489) ICMJE-affiliated journals (30%; 26% to 34%) had an explicit data-sharing policy on their website (11 were more stringent than the ICMJE requirements, 85 were less demanding and 49 were compliant) and 276 (56%; 52% to 61%) merely referred to the ICMJE requirements.

In RCTs published in affiliated journals with an explicit data-sharing policy, data-sharing statements were rare (25%), and expressed intentions to share data were found in 22% (15% to 32%).


The implementation of ICMJE data-sharing requirements in online journal policies was suboptimal for ICMJE-member journals and poor for ICMJE-affiliated journals.

The implementation of the policy was good in member journals and of concern for affiliated journals. We suggest the conduct of continuous audits of medical journal data-sharing policies in the future.

URL : Data-sharing recommendations in biomedical journals and randomised controlled trials: an audit of journals following the ICMJE recommendations


Compliance with the first funder open access policy in Australia

Authors : Noreen Kirkman, Gaby Haddow


In 2012, the National Health and Medical Research Council introduced Australia’s first national open access policy for funded journal articles. This study investigated the extent of compliance during the first two full years of the mandate.


The funding acknowledgment fields in Web of Science facilitated the identification of the population of funded articles. Google Scholar, the Directory of Open Access Journals, publishers’ Websites, Trove, and Australian institutional repositories were the sources of data about open access.


Quantitative analysis performed on the records of 3,190 articles and 1,137 journal titles enabled the calculation of descriptive statistics to present the characteristics of the sample.


Over two-thirds (67.3%) of the articles were open access: 56.24% in journals and 11.06% in repositories. Hybrid open access comprised 25.58%, with 20.85% in fully open access journals and 8.75% in delayed open access journals.

Author accepted manuscripts in Australian institutional repositories (7.24%) and PubMed Central (3.82%) contributed to overall compliance but represented a small proportion of the non-open access articles.


As the first comprehensive study to measure compliance with Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council Open Access Policy, this study found a relatively high level of open access in journals alongside a low level of author accepted manuscripts in repositories.

Recommendations include better guidelines, procedures, and programs for grant recipients and a coordinated approach aimed at improving institutional repository deposit rates to achieve higher levels of open access and increased compliance with funder mandates.


The relationship between bioRxiv preprints, citations and altmetrics

Authors : Nicholas Fraser, Fakhri Momeni, Philipp Mayr, Isabella Peters

A potential motivation for scientists to deposit their scientific work as preprints is to enhance its citation or social impact. In this study we assessed the citation and altmetric advantage of bioRxiv, a preprint server for the biological sciences.

We retrieved metadata of all bioRxiv preprints deposited between November 2013 and December 2017, and matched them to articles that were subsequently published in peer-reviewed journals.

Citation data from Scopus and altmetric data from were used to compare citation and online sharing behavior of bioRxiv preprints, their related journal articles, and nondeposited articles published in the same journals. We found that bioRxiv-deposited journal articles had sizably higher citation and altmetric counts compared to nondeposited articles.

Regression analysis reveals that this advantage is not explained by multiple explanatory variables related to the articles’ publication venues and authorship. Further research will be required to establish whether such an effect is causal in nature.

bioRxiv preprints themselves are being directly cited in journal articles, regardless of whether the preprint has subsequently been published in a journal. bioRxiv preprints are also shared widely on Twitter and in blogs, but remain relatively scarce in mainstream media and Wikipedia articles, in comparison to peer-reviewed journal articles.


A systematic examination of preprint platforms for use in the medical and biomedical sciences setting

Authors : Jamie J Kirkham, Naomi Penfold, Fiona Murphy, Isabelle Boutron, John PA Ioannidis, Jessica K Polka, David Moher


The objective of this review is to identify all preprint platforms with biomedical and medical scope and to compare and contrast the key characteristics and policies of these platforms. We also aim to provide a searchable database to enable relevant stakeholders to compare between platforms.

Study Design and Setting

Preprint platforms that were launched up to 25th June 2019 and have a biomedical and medical scope according to MEDLINE’s journal selection criteria were identified using existing lists, web-based searches and the expertise of both academic and non-academic publication scientists.

A data extraction form was developed, pilot-tested and used to collect data from each preprint platform’s webpage(s). Data collected were in relation to scope and ownership; content-specific characteristics and information relating to submission, journal transfer options, and external discoverability; screening, moderation, and permanence of content; usage metrics and metadata.

Where possible, all online data were verified by the platform owner or representative by correspondence.


A total of 44 preprint platforms were identified as having biomedical and medical scope, 17 (39%) were hosted by the Open Science Framework preprint infrastructure, six (14%) were provided by F1000 Research Ltd (the Open Research Central infrastructure) and 21 (48%) were other independent preprint platforms. Preprint platforms were either owned by non-profit academic groups, scientific societies or funding organisations (n=28; 64%), owned/partly owned by for-profit publishers or companies (n=14; 32%) or owned by individuals/small communities (n=2; 5%).

Twenty-four (55%) preprint platforms accepted content from all scientific fields although some of these had restrictions relating to funding source, geographical region or an affiliated journal’s remit.

Thirty-three (75%) preprint platforms provided details about article screening (basic checks) and 14 (32%) of these actively involved researchers with context expertise in the screening process.

The three most common screening checks related to the scope of the article, plagiarism and legal/ethical/societal issues and compliance. Almost all preprint platforms allow submission to any peer-reviewed journal following publication, have a preservation plan for read-access, and most have a policy regarding reasons for retraction and the sustainability of the service.

Forty-one (93%) platforms currently have usage metrics, with the most common metric being the number of downloads presented on the abstract page.


A large number of preprint platforms exist for use in biomedical and medical sciences, all of which offer researchers an opportunity to rapidly disseminate their research findings onto an open-access public server, subject to scope and eligibility.

However, the process by which content is screened before online posting and withdrawn or removed after posting varies between platforms, which may be associated with platform operation, ownership, governance and financing.


Community curation in PomBase: enabling fission yeast experts to provide detailed, standardized, sharable annotation from research publications

Authors : Antonia Lock, Midori A Harris, Kim Rutherford, Jacqueline Hayles, Valerie Wood

Maximizing the impact and value of scientific research requires efficient knowledge distribution, which increasingly depends on the integration of standardized published data into online databases.

To make data integration more comprehensive and efficient for fission yeast research, PomBase has pioneered a community curation effort that engages publication authors directly in FAIR-sharing of data representing detailed biological knowledge from hypothesis-driven experiments.

Canto, an intuitive online curation tool that enables biologists to describe their detailed functional data using shared ontologies, forms the core of PomBase’s system.

With 8 years’ experience, and as the author response rate reaches 50%, we review community curation progress and the insights we have gained from the project.

We highlight incentives and nudges we deploy to maximize participation, and summarize project outcomes, which include increased knowledge integration and dissemination as well as the unanticipated added value arising from co-curation by publication authors and professional curators.

URL : Community curation in PomBase: enabling fission yeast experts to provide detailed, standardized, sharable annotation from research publications


Open Access and Altmetrics in the pandemic age: Forescast analysis on COVID-19 literature

Authors : Daniel Torres-Salinas, Nicolas Robinson-Garcia, Pedro A. Castillo-Valdivieso

We present an analysis on the uptake of open access on COVID-19 related literature as well as the social media attention they gather when compared with non OA papers.

We use a dataset of publications curated by Dimensions and analyze articles and preprints. Our sample includes 11,686 publications of which 67.5% are openly accessible.

OA publications tend to receive the largest share of social media attention as measured by the Altmetric Attention Score. 37.6% of OA publications are bronze, which means toll journals are providing free access.

MedRxiv contributes to 36.3% of documents in repositories but papers in BiorXiv exhibit on average higher AAS. We predict the growth of COVID-19 literature in the following 30 days estimating ARIMA models for the overall publications set, OA vs. non OA and by location of the document (repository vs. journal).

We estimate that COVID-19 publications will double in the next 20 days, but non OA publications will grow at a higher rate than OA publications. We conclude by discussing the implications of such findings on the dissemination and communication of research findings to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.