No more scientific Lake Wobegon: After criticism, publisher adds a “reject” option for peer reviewers
If you know Prairie Home Companion, you that that in fictional Lake Wobegon, “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”
At most other journals, some version of “reject” would be available. As Eyal noted:
Failing to even offer peer reviewers the option of rejecting a paper mocks the peer review system. It is a brazen violation of basic, definitive ethical norms in scientific review.
Tim Hill, publisher of Dove Medical Press — which was expelled from the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) last fall following the John Bohannon sting published in Science — considered Eyal’s comments, and made a change. The new peer review form reads:
Hill tells Retraction Watch:
I should explain that we have operated since we started publishing journals on the basis of a minimum of two sets of peer-reviewer comments for each paper. Narrative comments plus the numeric rating and any Conflicts of Interest disclosures are supplied to each journal’s Editor-in-Chief. The Editor-in-Chief then evaluates the reviewer responses along with their own reading of the paper and they then decide what happens to each paper.
To help the reviewers and Editors-in-Chief we have a numeric rating scale on each reviewer response form for all our journals. These are intended to give a quick ranking of the paper that supplements the narrative as a help to the Editor-in-Chief in making their decisions. We put a brief legend on a score of 1, 5, and 9 to give the reviewers some idea of what the scale means.
We have never discouraged our reviewers from rejecting papers. When a peer-reviewer contacted me recently I was interested to receive his comments as it was the first time that anyone had raised such an issue. We are always eager to improve how our processes operate and the peer-reviewer had identified something that was not previously considered. We wanted to improve our process and make the numeric scale as straightforward as possible for users.
When the Bohannon scam paper occurred and we were made aware of it we immediately began to modify our internal processes to prevent anything similar happening in future. These changes were in place well before we heard of the OASPA decision. Our experience with the Bohannon paper taught us that we need to continually improve and adapt our systems and continue to keep them as up-to-date and secure as possible. We think that adopting the recent peer-reviewer suggestion may avoid anyone else taking the view on that numeric scale that he had.