Monday, 9 April 2012

Elsevier’s Peer Review Challenge

On March 28th Elsevier launched the "How do you see the future of peer review?" challenge (see also Peer review- is it outdated?)

The aim of the challenge is to invite the reviewing community to submit ideas on any of the following 3 aspects of the journal peer review system:

1) The peer review process itself - new approaches or enhancements of current approaches
2) Approaches to help early career researchers to become reviewers
3) Improving the recognition and rewarding of reviewers by their institutions and/or journal publishers

The challenge website will remain open to entries until midnight May 7th 2012 (CET).

Elsevier will work with the overall winners of the challenge to determine if their idea could be piloted with a suitable Elsevier journal, and in cooperation with the editors of that pilot journal. The winning ideas will be announced around August 15th through the challenge website.

Elsevier hope that this challenge will help inform the ongoing discussions on peer review and help them to work more closely with the reviewing community.

You are welcome to forward this challenge announcement to your colleagues to encourage submissions.


  1. Despite several years of developments in evaluating the technical papers for publication, there are yet issues to be seriously taken care of. Here I want to highlight an important challenge: The issue of plagiarism! as it relates to peer review process.

    As a reviewer for some of the journals (extractive metallurgy related), I understand that elsevier provides 30 days of free access to Scopus, perhaps to facilitate checking the novelty of a paper. However, the problem is that less reviewers really take time to check the novelty of a work, or perhaps, whether or not the paper may have some issues with originality.

    Having read your last year's post on the issue of plagiarism, and your determination to stamp out this issue at least in Minerals Engineering, I suspect that the problem state has been considerably changed.

    In the special case of mineral processing and extractive metallurgy field, unfortunately mushroom-like growing fake journals are increasing rapidly. These journals have become a place to publish either rejected papers from acredited journals, or plagiarized works. I doubt that the papers submitted to these journals get even skimmed through by the editors of such journals. 100% of the submissions get accepted for publication. I have been victim of such publications a couple of times since last two years.

    Some of such works find their way to publication in elsevier journals. To that end, I would like to recommend the elsevier to undertake a preliminary detective search for the papers being submitted, assuming that most of the reviewers DO NOT check the novelty of the papers being published. In extreme case, once it was proved that the work is subject to any academic offense, authors' information should be stored in a black list and shared with ALL elsevier journals, so that the editors are alerted of such submissions. To be more effective, this database should be shared with other renowed publishers so that the authors cannot publish their work in other publisher's as well.

    I believe this is one of the most important things that needs to be considered in the peer review process.

    Thank you for your attention,

    Researcher from the University of Utah

    1. Many thanks for this Anon. Plagiarism is just one of the things that plagues journal editors, and the comments on my posting of 6th April 2011 show that many people feel strongly about this. We are getting there, however. There is now much more dialogue and interaction between journal editors, and Elsevier now scan all incoming papers to search for signs of plagiarism.
      The other scourge is dual submission- the same paper being submitted at the same time to different journals. This is often difficult to spot until the paper has been published, but then it is very easy to spot, so the message to anyone thinking of dabbling in plagiarism or multiple submission is don't!! Your dastardly deeds will be discovered and you will be blacklisted (certainly from Minerals Engineering), so is it really worth risking your careers in this way?

      Regarding peer-review itself, judging by the many comments on my posting of 21 March 2011, the general consensus is that it is the best method that we have, although it has flaws and occasionally papers slip through the net.

  2. I can't really think of a better system, to be honest. But in the age of multidisciplinary research one problem is getting reviewers with enough range of knowledge to be able to give a thorough review. This is especially relevant to biotechnological papers presented to mineral processing type journals. I think they usually belong there, but not many reviewers have the depth of experience to review all aspects equally. The answer may be to have more than two reviewers, but this is asking a lot.

    My only real suggestion that I am passionate about is that peer review be *truly* blind; the reviewers should not know the identity or location of the authors. The Experimenter Effect is as real to reviewing as it is to research. If you know the researchers or research group whose paper you are reviewing, you may be (unconsciously, one would hope) biased by that fact. If you conclude that the paper is not very good, you may begin to question your judgement if it is from a reputable source. And, possibly, vice versa.

    We all esteem to be professional and capable of non-biased reviewing, but we are also human. I say eliminate the issue by making it a double-blind system.

  3. Hello from Elsevier - I am the Executive Publisher for Minerals Engineering. Plagiarism and other acts of ethical misconduct are a real and increasing problem for Editors and Publishers alike. I get at least two or three cases per week forwarded to me by journal Editors but I suspect that is just the tip of the iceberg. Elsevier uses plagiarism software and that is going to be made available to all Editors so that they can run a check if suspicions are aroused. I will discuss with Barry on his return to the UK. This year I have started running Author Workshops which focus on author's rights and responsibilities. Ethical misconduct is discussed in some detail. If the programme allows I would be happy to give such a workshop at future MEI conferences.
    Dean Dastbury


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