IOP Publishing and Publons partner to tackle challenges in peer review

Over the next 12 months, IOP Publishing (IOPP) will be collaborating with research recognition experts Publons to address three core challenges in peer review – recognition and transparency; diversity; and efficiency.

The two organisations will work together on researching, developing and implementing ways to solve these challenges.

Marc Gillett, Head of Publishing Operations for IOP Publishing, said: “In recent years, demand for high quality peer review has increased while peer review approaches have stayed much the same. This has led to reviewer fatigue, and a growing gap between the number of reviewers required to provide quality reviews and those who are readily available. Despite more than one third of our submissions coming from China last year, only 12 per cent of our reviewer invitations went to researchers based in China.

“The demographics of our authors have shifted dramatically in recent years, but our approach to reviewer recruitment hasn’t been reflective of these changes. As a result certain reviewer communities feel over stretched or underappreciated, while other communities are underrepresented, both in terms of geographical distribution and gender. As an industry we need to understand why that’s happening and how we might be able to improve the sustainability and diversity of peer review.

“Clearly, this is a challenge for the diversity and efficiency of research. Addressing the core problems of peer review is a one of our strategic priorities for 2020, as we aim to become a leading authority on peer review. This work will also feed into our open physics initiative, which is about increasing access, transparency and inclusivity across the physical sciences.

“We have established an excellent relationship with Publons over the past four years, so it was a natural fit to work with them again on tackling these challenges in peer review.”

Matthew Hayes, Director of Publons, part of the Web of Science Group, a Clarivate Analytics company, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with IOPP again, particularly on a project that has the potential to be of such widespread benefit.

“We hope this project will allow us and IOPP to be at the forefront of addressing the submission / review demand gap. To do this, we need to really understand reviewer motivations and address geographical and gender disparities, a piece of research we began with our Global State of Peer Review reports.”

Some of the activities the partnership will work on over the year include:

  • Producing a report on reviewer motivations
  • Initiatives to improve gender and geographical diversity in our reviewer pool
  • Improving efficiency and consistency of the peer review process for authors and reviewers
  • Introducing new innovations such as interacting with reviewers through WeChat.

IOPP and Publons will give regular updates on the partnership throughout the year and are keen to hear feedback from the scientific community about other steps they could take. You can read more on our dedicated Peer Review Quality page, and suggestions can be sent to