Most readers of this blog will have published articles in peer-reviewed journals. Many of us will have also spent many unpaid hours participating in the reviewing process. It is, in fact, an expensive process, expensive in terms of both pain and money, a “pain point” for authors and reviewers, as pointed out by Pippa Smart (2016). As an author and reviewer, I agree with Smart’s comment on pain! In particular, I find being commandeered by the algorithms employed in publishers’ computerized article management systems a proverbial pain in the neck.
As far as monetary costs are concerned, Smart cited a study commissioned by the Research Information Network (2008), which estimated the total cost of peer review £1.9 billion pounds sterling annually (over two billion US dollars), equivalent to about £1,200 per paper. She also cited a more recent study by the PEER (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research) project which reported the average cost of managing peer review to be $250 per submitted manuscript (Wallace 2012). (“Managing” peer review does not include the cost of the time of reviewers and authors). More recent figures are cited in the article by Andrea Bonaccorsi, cited below. Given the costs, it is not surprising that the peer review process is a frequent topic for discussion.
The most recent issue (no. 1 of 2023) of the peer-reviewed open access Italian library journal, JLIS.it, deals with the topic of peer review and the need to reform the system, from an Italian and international point of view under the issue title, “Peer review: a process undergoing a required transformation”. A brief introduction outlining the theme by Mauro Guerrini, chief editor of JLIS.it, Andrea Capaccioni and Rossana Morriello of the journal’s Editorial Board (Guerrini, Capaccioni, and Morriello 2023) is followed by ten articles dealing with various aspects of the current peer review scene. Steve Witt, editor of IFLA journal, contributes the opening article, on “Global trends in knowledge production and the evolving peer review process” (Witt 2023). My own article, “Scholarly publishing and peer review in the Global South: the role of the reviewer” (Lor 2023) gives some background on the conditions in which authors from the Global South work, and outlines problems reviewers have to contend with when reviewing their articles. I argue that the role of the peer reviewer includes giving a voice to the South, helping to redress the imbalance of South-North and North-South flows of information and knowledge.
Rahmatollah Fattahi, Reza Rajabali Beglou, and Somayeh Sadat Akhshik (2023) bring a perspective from Iran on peer review ethics, based on a survey of reviewers and authors of seven Iranian LIS journals.
Attention is paid to evolving forms of peer review. Andrea Bonaccorsi (2023) discusses proposals to reform peer review, namely payment of referees and “ex post” peer review from an economic point of view, citing strong economic arguments against these innovations, but suggests that payments might be made to groups of researchers, and would be used exclusively for research purposes, or for socially valuable goals. This would “maintain the collective orientation that is a deep value of modern science.” Open peer review is discussed by two Spanish authors, Ernest Abadal and Remedois Melero (2023), from the point of view of scientific journal editors. Their article is in Spanish, with an English abstract,
The remaining articles are in Italian, also with English abstracts. Interesting examples are an article in which Andrea Capaccioni (2023) discusses the selection and management of reviewers in open peer review, and Valentina Sonzini’s (2023) article on gender equality in Italian LIS journals, focussing on editorial boards, authors, and peer reviewers. She analysed empirical data derived from the Gruppo Wikidata per Musei, Archivi e Biblioteche (GWMAB), a Wikidata working group for museums, archives, and libraries, finding that women are strongly represented as authors and peer reviewers, where they predominate, but not in editorial boards. She points out that this reflects the feminization of these professions but cautions that the presence of women does not necessarily mean that women’s issues and perspectives are sufficiently addressed.
Abadal, Ernest, and Remedios Melero. 2023. “Open Peer Review: The Point of View of Scientific Journal Editors.” JLIS.It 14 (1): 60–70. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-507.
Bonaccorsi, Andrea. 2023. “Towards Peer Review as a Group Engagement.” JLIS.It 14 (1): 46–59. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-511.
Capaccioni, Andrea. 2023. “Open Peer Review: Some Considerations on the Selection and Management of Reviewers.” JLIS.It 14 (1): 71–80. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-508.
Fattahi, Rahmatollah, Reza Rajabali Beglou, and Somayeh Sadat Akhshik. 2023. “Peer Review Ethics in Iranian LIS Scholarly Journals: A Comparison between Views of Reviewers and Authors.” JLIS.It 14 (1): 30–45. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-504.
Guerrini, Mauro, Andrea Capaccioni, and Rossana Morriello. 2023. “Peer Review: A Process Undergoing a Required Transformation.” JLIS.It 14 (1): III–V. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-519.
Lor, Peter Johan. 2023. “Scholarly Publishing and Peer Review in the Global South: The Role of the Reviewer.” JLIS.It 14 (1): 10–29. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-512.
Research Information Network. 2008. Activities, Costs and Funding Flows in the Scholarly Communications System in the UK Report Commissioned by the Research Information Network (RIN). Research Information Network. https://silo.tips/download/activities-costs-and-funding-flows-in-the-scholarly-communications-system-in-the-3.
Smart, Pippa. 2016. “Peer Review: An Expensive Business.” Learned Publishing 29 (1): 3–4. https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1012.
Sonzini, Valentina. 2023. “Gender Equality in Library Science and Book History Italian Journals: A Focus on Boards, Authors and Peer-Reviewers.” JLIS.It 14 (1): 81–98. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-509.
Wallace, Julia. 2012. “PEER Final Report; 1 September 2008– 31 May 2012.” ECP-2007-DILI-537003. http://www.peerproject.eu/fileadmin/media/reports/20120618_PEER_Final_public_report_D9-13.pdf.
Witt, Steven. 2023. “Global Trends in Knowledge Production and the Evolving Peer Review Process.” JLIS.It 14 (1): 1–9. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-515.