METM17 presentation

Role and tasks of peer reviewers in the biomedical journal editorial process, 1970–2017: a formal “scoping review” of the literature

Ketevan Glonti, Split, Croatia
Objective: There are numerous definitions of the primary functions of the peer review process and of the roles and tasks of peer reviewers and scientific journal editors. First steps have been taken to identify core competencies for biomedical journal editors (Galipeau et al. 2016). However, thus far there is no widely recognized definition and no body of literature has systematically identified the role and tasks of peer reviewers of biomedical journals. Clearly establishing the role and tasks was a first step towards identifying issues within the peer review process and standardizing this process.

The purpose of this scoping review was to determine what is known about the role and tasks of peer reviewers.

Design: We used Arksey and O'Malley's scoping review framework to guide our methodology (Arksey and O'Malley 2005). Eight electronic databases were searched using database-specific search terms. Two reviewers used previously defined inclusion and exclusion criteria based on the “Population – Concept – Context” framework to independently screen eligible articles considered for inclusion.

This was supplemented by a review of individual journal recommendations to peer reviewers. Journal editors were contacted to request guidelines that are provided to peer reviewers at the review stage; these guidelines are usually not openly accessible.

A search for grey literature also performed included searching the websites of existing networks, forums and associations for editors, biomedical journal publishers, and other organizations that offer resources for reviewers and editors. Relevant blogs, surveys and reports of workshops were also considered.

Results: A total of 23,176 bibliographic records were screened. This study is ongoing and currently in the data extraction phase with expected finalized results by September 2017.

Conclusions: This review will help detect disagreements around what constitutes the role and tasks of peer reviewers involved in the editorial process in biomedical journals. Furthermore, considerable variation in the content of guidelines provided to peer reviewers is expected between journals.

The outcomes will be relevant to a variety of audiences including editors, peer reviewers and authors; they will give information on the extent and nature of the existing literature in this area and will provide an overview/typology of the role and tasks that may be expected of peer reviewers.
Galipeau, J., Barbour, V., Baskin, P., Bell-Syer, S., Cobey, K., Cumpston, M., Deeks, J., Garner, P., MacLehose, H., Shamseer, L., & Straus, S. (2016). A scoping review of competencies for scientific editors of biomedical journals. BMC Medicine, 14(1), p.16.
Arksey, H., & O'Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), pp.19–32.

Ketevan Glonti is a research fellow pursuing her PhD within the Methods in Research on Research (MiRoR) project, an innovative doctoral training program in the field of clinical research funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. Her PhD focuses on peer review content and the communication process in biomedical journals. She has a BSc in health communication and an MSc in public health.