There is a range of approaches to improving peer review, and at this journal we encourage many of them.
The importance of peer review and the imperfections of current peer-review systems are a perennial topic of discussion. Many different modifications to the traditional model have been advocated and tried, across journals and across fields, and the landscape of peer review has changed substantially for the better over the past 20 years or so. A recent preprint and accompanying blog post make a helpful contribution by summarizing many of the different ideas, and classifying them into four different schools of thought that have both complementarities and tensions.
Peer review has continued to evolve over the last twenty years, undoubtedly for the better – though there are definitely still room for improvement (e.g. gender and racial diversity). This Nature editorial reflects on the changes over the last 20 years.
The quality and reproducibility school includes a range of approaches that are aimed at making peer review more rigorous, and thus improving the reliability of the published record itself. This starts with choosing peer reviewers with the right expertise, and making editorial decisions that specifically take into account the different expertise of the reviewers — especially in the case of any disagreements. Reviewers can be assisted in scrutinizing a manuscript through the use of checklists, both those filled in by authors (such as our own reporting summary) to ensure all relevant information is available for assessment and those used by reviewers themselves to help to structure their approach, such as one that we encourage our reviewers to use. This school is also keen to improve the detection of image manipulation and plagiarism, checks for both of which are carried out in-house at Naturejournals and therefore are not, strictly speaking, part of the peer-review process. Further improvements to peer-review rigour come from specific reviewing of custom code, and use of registered reports to assess study design in advance. Both of these are currently being used by other Nature journals, and rollout at Nature Ecology & Evolution is under consideration.