Would distributing all reviewers’ reports for a specific paper amongst every referee before deciding whether to accept or reject a manuscript make peer review fairer and quicker? This idea – called “cross-referee commenting” – is being implemented by the journal Development, as part of its attempt to improve the peer-review process. Katherine Brown, executive editor of Development from Cambridge, UK, who co-authored a recent editorial about the phenomenon, spoke to us about the move.
Retraction Watch: Many journals share the reviews of a particular paper with those who’ve reviewed it. What is cross-referee commenting in peer review and how is it different from current reviewing processes?
Katherine Brown: Indeed, sharing referee reports after a decision has been made is common practice across many journals, and can provide referees with valuable feedback on how their assessment of a paper compared to that of the other referees. What’s different with cross-referee commenting is that we are sharing the reports before a decision has been made, and asking for feedback – does each referee agree with the others’ reports, and if not, why not? The idea behind this is to help the editor decide whether or not to invite a revision and, where the decision is positive, to help direct the authors as to the most important revisions required for eventual acceptance of the paper.