At the end of June, eLife started a trial of a new peer-review process designed to give authors more control over the decision to publish. In brief, once the editors had decided that a manuscript should undergo in-depth peer review, the journal was committed to publishing the article along with the decision letter from the editor, the separate peer reviews from the referees, and the response to the reviews from the author (see “Peer review: eLife trials a new approach” and “A new twist on peer review”). Authors were able to opt in to the trial at the submission stage.
The trial has been closed for new submissions since August 8, and we have published more than ten of the first articles from the trial. This blog post reports data on the first part of the process: that is, the decision to reject a paper before in-depth review or to send it for peer review (which is tantamount to accepting it for publication, unless the authors decide not to proceed after receiving the reviews). Overall, almost a third of authors opted in to the new approach: the success rates for male and female last authors in the trial were similar, although late-career last authors fared better than their early- and mid-career colleagues.
Although most of the articles that have been peer reviewed in the trial have not been published yet, it is clear that the encouragement rate was lower than it is for regular submissions, and that the initial decision time took longer. Neither finding is surprising given the increased importance that is placed on the initial decision, and that this is a new process where outcomes are uncertain. However, if the majority of the trial submissions invited for peer review are published (rather than being withdrawn by the authors), the overall acceptance rate will be substantially higher for the trial submissions.
The most concerning result in the trial so far is that late-career last researchers appear to be more successful than their early- and mid-career colleagues in passing the initial evaluation into peer review. Although still tentative at this stage (because of missing data) these results will require careful consideration and suggest that modifications in the process will be required to ensure that less well-established researchers in particular are not disadvantaged in any way. It is also noteworthy that the trial process appears to be much less popular in some countries, including China, which is another finding that requires further examination.
Read the Complete Post (approx. 2800 words)