As part of our goal towards more open science, Methods in Ecology and Evolution and Journal of Ecology are participating in a transparent peer review pilot. Now, over a year since it began in November 2019, we review the success of the trial so far.

How does the pilot work?

When authors submit to MEE, they are asked if they would like to be part of the trial, or opt out. If they choose to be part of the trial and the manuscript is accepted, the peer reviewers’ reports, editors’ decisions and authors’ responses are published on Publons alongside the final article. Reviewer participation is compulsory, but they can still choose to be either named or anonymous. You can see an example of how the reports look on Publons here.

Increased transparency has many benefits. It helps us to make the peer review process more accountable, creates opportunities for peer review training, and – for reviewers who sign their reports – specific and qualitative recognition.

Do many authors opt out of the pilot?

The vast majority of authors have agreed to take part in the pilot. Only 10.7% of authors opted out at submission stage.

Are manuscripts more or less likely to be rejected if the authors opt out?

The reject rate was similar for manuscripts that took part in the trial to those where authors opted out (75% vs 71% respectively).

Has the pilot caused a decline the number of reviewers willing to review our manuscripts?

The pilot did not appear to affect reviewer responses, with the percentage of referees agreeing to review manuscripts (49%) remaining the same as the percentage over the three years prior to the trial. There was a small increase (2%) in the percentage of reviewers who did not respond to review invitations, though it is not possible to say whether this is due to the pilot or the COVID-19 Pandemic.

These data were taken from the trial period (November 2019-September 2020) and compared to an average from the previous three years (November 2016-October 2019).

The Future of the Pilot

This assessment has not highlighted any negative effects of the trial, though the data may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to continue the pilot for another year to obtain more data and feedback from authors and reviewers.

If you would like more information or have feedback about the transparent peer review pilot, please get in touch.