METM19 presentation

Editors’ perspectives on the peer review process in biomedical journals – disentangling communication issues and understanding roles and tasks of stakeholders involved

Ketevan Glonti, Split, Croatia

Over the years, a number of problems have emerged in the peer review process used by scientific journals across most disciplines, including instances of fraud, implicit and explicit bias, and variable quality of peer reviewer reports. Editors and peer reviewers operate largely without specific training, and there is evidence from biomedical publishing of a disconnect between the expectations of journal editors and peer reviewers, resulting in reviewer reports that do not meet either editors’ or authors’ expectations. Authors may ask language and editorial support professionals for advice on how to deal effectively with issues of this kind. Therefore, the purposes of this qualitative study were to disentangle current communication practices that possibly lead to mismatched expectations and misunderstandings between the various stakeholders in the process and to outline the roles and tasks of peer reviewers from the journal editors’ point of view.

Semi-structured in-depth interviews (n=56) were conducted with editors representing a wide range of biomedical journals including general medicine (n=11), specialty (n=43) and mega (n=2) journals. The majority of study participants were male editors-in-chief (n=39) working part-time (n=50) at specialty journals (n=43) that employed a single-blind review process (n=38). There was a balance of journals with (n=27) and without an impact factor (n=29), from 22 different publishers. Transcribed interviews and fieldnotes were imported into NVivo and submitted to thematic analysis as described by Braun and Clarke (2006). 

The aims of this presentation for anyone working with authors on their manuscripts, dealing with peer reviewer comments and communicating with journal editors are 1) to depict the editors’ points of view regarding peer reviewers and their reports, 2) to shed light on communication issues within the review process, and 3) to propose ways to manage and attenuate disconnects, miscommunication and interpersonal influences on the peer review process.

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2): 77-101.

About the presenter

Ketevan Glonti is currently a research fellow pursuing a European Joint Doctorate in Epidemiology at the Paris Descartes University and the University of Split within the Methods in Research on Research (MiRoR) project, an innovative doctoral training programme in the field of clinical research funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. The topic of her PhD is on peer review content and the communication process in biomedical journals. Prior to the PhD she was a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where she worked on a range of research studies related to public health and health systems.