Peer review is the bedrock of scientific publication (for Nature’s position on peer review, see our Guide to Authors). It is widely considered essential for improving submitted papers and enhancing the credentials of scientists as well as those of the journals in which they choose to publish.
But, like any process, peer review requires occasional scrutiny and assessement. Has the Internet bought new opportunities for journals to manage peer review more imaginatively or by different means? Are there any systematic flaws in the process? Should the process be transparent or confidential? Is the journal even necessary, or could scientists manage the peer review process themselves?
Nature’s peer review process has been maintained, unchanged, for decades. We, the editors, believe that the process functions well, by and large. But, in the spirit of being open to considering alternative approaches, we are taking two initiatives: a web debate and a trial of a particular type of open peer review.
The trial will not displace Nature’s traditional confidential peer review process, but will complement it. From 5 June 2006, authors may opt to have their submitted manuscripts posted publicly for comment.
Any scientist may then post comments, provided they identify themselves. Once the usual confidential peer review process is complete, the public ‘open peer review’ process will be closed. Editors will then read all comments on the manuscript and invite authors to respond. At the end of the process, as part of the trial, editors will assess the value of the public comments.
At the close of the trial, we will assess the value of public comments overall as well as the practicalities of their inclusion on a longer-term basis. We will publish an account of the trial and our conclusions.
For further details about the trial for authors and reviewers, please go to the question and answer page provided. Further general questions not answered by this list can be directed to the editors. Questions from authors and referees about particular manuscript submissions should be sent to the editor who is handling the manuscript.
An example of one such blog entry about Tiktaalik can be found here: