Types of peer review

As we saw in Lesson 1, peer review can take several different forms. The most common of these are:

  • Single-blind peer review, where the identity of the reviewer is unknown to the author because this is thought to allow a more objective view of the manuscript, and
  • Double-blind peer review, where the identities of both the reviewer and author are unknown to each other.

Both methods use reviewer anonymity to encourage authors to respond equally to all reviewer comments, and not just those of a more senior, influential reviewer. But there may be concern from authors that reviewers may plagiarize their ideas. 

Additional peer review types include:

  • Open peer review, which discloses the identities of both the reviewer and authors, as used by The BMJ. This type is seen as being more honest, and a way of increasing the recognition given to reviewers in shaping a scientific study. But some reviewers may withhold important negative criticism, particularly when reviewing the study of a more established scientist. Open peer review is more commonly seen in medical journals where public health is at stake. 
  • Collaborative peer review, in which the reviewers interact and discuss potential issues with each other, and sometimes with the authors, perhaps in real time, as in Frontiers. This can provide a fairer review process and gives reviewers greater recognition and networking opportunities. 
  • Cross peer review, in which reviewers comment on each other’s reports to help reduce bias and minimize errors, as used by The EMBO Journal
  • Post-publication peer review, in which comments about a manuscript are posted online by readers after the article has been published, as in F1000Research. This has the advantages of openness and publication speed because editors do not need to wait for pre-publication reviews.
  • Presubmission portable peer review, in which comments about a manuscript are commissioned by an independent third party, as in BMC Zoology. Depending on the revisions made and peer review comments, the journal will decide if a further round of review is needed or not. This has the advantage of speeding up the submission process.

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