Transparent peer review at Nature Communications is a clear success

Nature Communications is incorporating transparent peer review into the journal on a permanent basis, following a successful ten-month trial. In this scheme, authors are given the option to publish the peer review history of the paper alongside their published research. All papers submitted from January 2016 qualify for this scheme. Since the trial began, around 60% of published authors have actively opted into transparent peer review.

The aim of transparent peer review is to open up the peer review process by providing the information on which the editorial decision to publish a paper is made. Upon acceptance of a paper, authors are asked if they agree to publishing the peer reviewer reports with the accepted version of the manuscript. The scheme provides an opportunity to inform discussion of published papers by the scientific community, and may also offer more credit to the work of our peer reviews by making their often very detailed assessment of a paper accessible to a wide audience.

Uptake has varied across the various research areas, but in most subjects the majority of published papers now have publically available peer reviewer files. To date, more than 1,200 qualifying papers have been accepted for publication, and the average author opt-in across the journal is about 60%. Unsurprisingly, uptake has been highest in subject areas where open peer review is more commonplace, such as in areas of Earth sciences, whereas uptake has been lower in research areas that are not used to this type of peer review, for example in the physical sciences.

Reviewers can remain anonymous or can make their identity known if they wish by signing their name on the comments made to the authors. Whereas authors are given the option to opt out of the scheme, all peer reviewers have to agree to the potential publication of their anonymous reviewer reports. Only a small number of reviewers have declined to review a paper under the transparent peer review scheme and the average time from submission of a paper to publication has not been affected by the initiative.

Joerg Heber, Executive Editor for Nature Communications, said: “The response to the trial has been truly encouraging, including from authors that are not used to this type of open peer review. By making transparent peer review a permanent feature, we hope that with time more and more authors and readers will appreciate the detailed context that these files provide to the published paper.”