How to improve scientific peer review: Four schools of thought

Authors : Ludo Waltman, Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner, Stephen Pinfield, Helen Buckley Woods

Peer review plays an essential role as one of the cornerstones of the scholarly publishing system. There are many initiatives that aim to improve the way in which peer review is organized, resulting in a highly complex landscape of innovation in peer review.

Different initiatives are based on different views on the most urgent challenges faced by the peer review system, leading to a diversity of perspectives on how the system can be improved.

To provide a more systematic understanding of the landscape of innovation in peer review, we suggest that the landscape is shaped by four schools of thought: The Quality & Reproducibility school, the Democracy & Transparency school, the Equity & Inclusion school, and the Efficiency & Incentives school.

Each school has a different view on the key problems of the peer review system and the innovations necessary to address these problems. The schools partly complement each other, but we argue that there are also important tensions between the schools.

We hope that the four schools of thought offer a useful framework to facilitate conversations about the future development of the peer review system.

URL : How to improve scientific peer review: Four schools of thought


Innovations in peer review in scholarly publishing: a meta-summary

Authors : Helen Buckley Woods, Johanna Brumberg, Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner, Stephen Pinfield, Ludo Waltman


There are currently numerous innovations in peer review and quality assurance in scholarly publishing. The Research on Research Institute conducted a programme of co-produced projects investigating these innovations.

This literature review was part of one such project ‘Experiments in peer review’ (Kaltenbrunner et al, 2022), which created an inventory and framework of peer review innovations. The aim of this literature review was to aid the development of the inventory by identifying innovations in peer review reported in the scholarly literature and by providing a summary of the different approaches.


This meta-summary is based on data identified from Web of Science and Scopus limited from 2010 to 2021. A total of 247 papers were screened, with 6 review articles chosen for the focus of the literature review. Items were selected that described approaches to innovating peer review or illustrated examples.


The summary of innovations are drawn from 6 review articles: Bruce et al (2016); Tennant et al (2017); Burley (2017); Horbach and Halffman (2018); Tennant (2018); Barroga (2020). The innovations are divided into three high-level categories: approaches to peer review, reviewer focussed initiatives and technology to support peer review with sub-categories of results presented in tabular form and summarised. A summary of all innovations found is also presented.


From a simple synthesis of the review authors’ conclusions, three key messages are presented: observations on current practice; authors’ views on the implications of innovations in peer review; and calls for action in peer review research and practice.