We receive upwards of 200 research article submissions per month, initially as presubmission enquiries. The first screening of papers is done by one of the professional editors at the journal but once an initial decision is made about suitability we rely enormously on academic editors and reviewers for specific insight into the details of the papers and we are very grateful for the time, effort and care that is spent, by many academics, on these reviews.
We also peer review the vast majority of our magazine section articles, both those that are submitted spontaneously and those that we commission. For about a year now we have been noting the provenance of our magazine section articles, so you will see variations of this statement: “Provenance: Commissioned, externally peer reviewed.” on all our magazine section articles.
Several developments this year have subjected the peer review process to close scrutiny and have indeed raised public interest levels about peer review. The emails from the University of East Anglia on climate change, concerns from some stem cell researchers about peer review in their discipline, and Elsevier’s ultimatum to the Editor of Medical Hypotheses to adopt a traditional peer-review system or to resign, have highlighted that this apparent cornerstone of academic journals is not without controversy.
Since PLoS Medicine launched we have encouraged reviewers to sign their reviews, and we send all reviewers the outcome of the review process, together with the review reports from other reviewers. Should we be doing more to encourage openness in peer review – or be more radical? Whether you are one of our reviewers, or not, we’d like to hear your thoughts.