Jessica K. Polka and colleagues call on journals to sign a pledge to make reviewers’ anonymous comments part of the official scientific record.
Long shrouded in secrecy, the contents of peer review are coming into the open. In the past decade, outlets such as eLife, F1000Research, Royal Society Open Science, Annals of Anatomy, Nature Communications, PeerJand EMBO Press have begun to publish referee reports. Publishers including Copernicus, BMJ and BMC (the latter is owned by Springer Nature) have been doing so for even longer (see ‘Revealing peer review’). Last year, the organizers of Peer Review Week embraced the topic in a broader discussion of transparency.
We are representatives of two biomedical funders — the UK Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, Maryland — and ASAPbio, a non-profit organization that encourages innovation in life-sciences publishing. We are convinced that publishing referee reports would better inform authors and readers, improve review practices and boost trust in science. Right now, less than 3% of scientific journals allow peer reviews to be published (see go.nature.com/2weh6vn).
To increase these numbers, our organizations held a meeting in February this year of around 90 invitees from the life sciences, predominantly from North America and Europe. Scientific authors, reviewers and readers participated, along with journal editors and leaders of granting agencies. We took care to include conservative voices, but the nature of the meeting attracted people ready for change. The ideas in this article were honed at that event, with later assistance from HHMI president Erin O’Shea; molecular biologist Needhi Bhalla at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Kenneth Gibbs, director of postgraduate training at the US National Institute of General Medical Sciences; and researcher Tony Ross-Hellauer at Know-Center in Graz, Austria.