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Peer review maintains the quality of the research literature, so we can be proud that BMJ is a pioneer in peer review innovation.

 

We are actively helping to shape the conversation around peer review to enhance the quality and credibility of research journals.

Until recently, the process of publishing science has had a poor evidence base. That’s whyThe BMJ general medical journal, one of the earliest adopters of peer review, has taken a lead in innovating and experimenting with the peer review process. 

We also co-organise the quadrennial Peer Review Congress, in partnership with JAMA, and the Meta-Research Innovation Centre at Stanford (METRICS).

Our longstanding experience as an evidence-based publisher of over 70 specialist journals across many areas of medical science, has given us important insights into the practice of peer review. Access to this vast amount of data allows us to continuously assess and improve our processes.

 

Evidence based publishing

Dr Sara Schroter is BMJ’s senior researcher responsible for the company’s long-running programme of research into peer review and biomedical publication.

“Since the 1990s, BMJ has run randomised controlled trials and other studies evaluating interventions to try to improve the quality of the research literature.

Our early trials focused on transparency – we demonstrated that opening up various aspects of the peer review process at The BMJ did not impact review quality.

Based on these findings and the ability of greater transparency to improve integrity, we changed our peer review model.

For over 20 years The BMJ  has been practising open (signed) peer review and, along with BMJ Open and BMJ Open Science, it publishes these signed reviews online with published articles. “

Most peer review research has been conducted with single journals and has often been methodologically weak.

Recognising that the practice of peer review is so varied and the need for more randomised controlled trials, Sara is actively partnering with external researchers to conduct cross-journal trials to test interventions aimed at improving the peer review process.

For example, we are currently collaborating on some exciting trials looking at the effects of reminding peer reviewers of key reporting guideline items on the completeness of reporting.

In addition, several of our journals have just taken part in a cross-publisher trial of the effects of providing reviewers with information from trial registries on the consistency of reporting of pre-specified and published primary outcomes.

These interventions, if found to be effective, could easily be implemented by administrative staff. 

We have also launched a new PhD programme, in collaboration with Maastricht University, whereby students can conduct research into the peer review process of our portfolio of over 70 journals.

 

 

Involving patients in the research and publishing process is also important to BMJ, which is why The BMJ journal employs patient editors, and gets regular input from members of its international patient and public advisory panel. 

Authors of research papers are routinely asked to tell us if, and how they involved patients in their study. We also send research, along with education and analysis papers, out to patients and carers to review alongside traditional peer reviewers. 

We conducted a survey of patient and public reviewers and received very positive responses about their experience and feedback from our research editors confirms that they find their comments helpful in making decisions on papers. 

The survey responses are helping us to further refine and improve on the guidance we give to our patient and public reviewers. 

While it is still novel to involve patients in editorial decision-making and peer review,  our experience of doing so over the past six years has shown the value of eliciting and listening to the patient’s voice and ensuring that it is integral to the journal’s editorial processes and helps inform editorial decisions. 

The fact that other medical journals are now following The BMJ’s lead in working with patients and carers suggests this view is increasingly shared by journal editors. 

Peer reviewed journals need peer reviewers

We continually consider how best to recognise and reward reviewers’ contribution.

Recognition starts with ensuring that every review that is carried out is recorded centrally in one place. ORCID is the most trusted place to do this. That’s why BMJ is now rapidly rolling out across its entire journals portfolio the ability for reviewers to automatically update their ORCID reviewer profiles and instantly receive credit for their reviewing. 

And Reward? Many BMJ Journals offer CME credits for reviews (in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic), and reviewers on our fully open access journals are entitled to generous discounts on article publishing charges when they publish their own papers.

Reviewers on all journals are publicly listed and thanked annually. We can also provide certificates of reviewer performance on request. 

Do you have your own ideas about how journals could better recognise and reward the contribution peer reviewers make?

We would love to hear from you—contact us today
Irene Rodriguez, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager, BMJ Journals