Last week we revealed details of the new partnership between Taylor & Francis and the online platform Publons, an initiative developed to help reviewers get verified recognition for their contributions. The scheme was cofounded by Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston with the aim to speed up research by improving peer review. We caught up with Daniel to find out more about Publons, and what he envisions for the future of peer review recognition.
What are the challenges for editors in finding reviewers and managing the peer review process?
Editors continually tell us that getting high quality review done is the hardest part of their job. They’re always looking for better ways to find reviewers, screen them for qualifications and conflicts of interest, contact them directly, and then motivate them to review. Everyone does this on an ad hoc basis. It’s unfortunate because it dramatically slows down scholarly communication. It isn’t surprising when you look at the huge difference in incentives and recognition researchers get for publishing compared with reviewing; everything compels you to publish as much as possible, but very little is offered for reviewing.
Editors see increasing numbers of submissions across their desks, but find that fewer experts are willing to vet this work in order that it can be communicated to the world. That’s one of the reasons we developed Publons, so we can work with the research enterprise to start making reviewing a rewarding activity and get more great, peer reviewed research to the world faster.
Why do you think reviewer recognition is so important?
It’s simple. It is the right thing to do for the experts who peer review and it is the right thing to do for science and research. Peer review is such a critical and valuable aspect of research, as it improves work and ensures there is trust and integrity in what gets published. If we don’t give these contributions the credit they are due, we undermine the quality assurance mechanism in the system. Not only will it slow down the process due to the difficulty of finding experts willing to review, but it also fosters poor quality reviews, which can lead to misleading research slipping through the gaps.
What/who is Publons?
Publons is a website that turns peer review and editorial contributions into measurable and rewarding activities. Experts use Publons to effortlessly keep a verified record of their peer review and editorial work across the world’s journals in one place. We collaborate with publishers and journals to ensure reviewers and editors are recognized for every contribution, even if the reviews are anonymous and papers are never published.
My co-founder Andrew Preston and I started Publons in 2013 in New Zealand. We now have offices in London, UK and Wellington, NZ.
How does Publons support editors through the peer review process?
In addition to helping editors recognize the efforts of their reviewers, we also provide a range of tools to help editors better understand, manage and improve the review process. Editors can use Publons to find, screen, contact and recruit new reviewers, dive into exclusive analytics and insights about their reviewer pool and processes, as well as provide confidential feedback to their reviewers to help them improve. All of this helps editors strengthen their links with reviewers and convert them into readers, authors and repeat reviewers.
What do you see as the future of peer review recognition? (Any more developments from Publons?)
By turning peer review into a measurable research output, we’re creating the foundations for much more exciting things. For example, we can help institutions and funders to start giving peer review and editorial contributions adequate weighting in career progression and funding decisions. With clear-cut ways to both improve science and advance your career through reviewing, researchers will have more reasons to help improve and safeguard research through peer review. If experts the world over are committed to discussing and evaluating the world’s research, things get really interesting.
Can you tell us a top tip for editors in managing the peer review process?
Don’t discount early career researchers as reliable, high quality reviewers. Not only are they extremely willing to break into peer review to build their profile and contribute, they are often the most responsive, timely and comprehensive reviewers; our Publons Academy graduates are a great place to source these up and coming reviewers.