How to fix flaws of peer review process in academic publishing?

First, let’s enlist the flaws of peer review process in academic publishing: slow and lengthy process, lack of transparency, and slow speed of completion.  As peer review process is a voluntary service, there is sharp shortfall in the number of reviewers working for a journal. Most academics have rigorous workload. Ever since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, the peer reviewers have ignored academic publishing and the process of academic publishing has hit an all- time low.

Although China has the highest number of papers published in international journals, most journals rely on the work and effort of Western peer reviewers. The quality of science skills offered by American and European peer reviewers is still considered quite high, as compared to Asian countries, like Japan, China, and Korea.

How can the speed of peer review process be increased to boost academic output? Most researchers have told academic publishers that peer review process should be accelerated by paying an honorarium to peer reviewers. Better forms of incentives should be provided to peer reviewers as it is a rigorous process that protects scientific accuracy and establishes facts.

Academic publishers are also asked to share profits with research departments of universities and institutes. Some of the other path-breaking strategies include free subscription of the journal, vouchers of publication, etc. However, peer review process quality lays heavy emphasis on the scientific rigor of reviewers.

If peer review becomes mandatory, universities would only recommend people with outstanding contribution to research. Conflicts of interest is another area that needs to be tackled. If academic publishers create a database of peer reviewers, authors can easily find experts that are related to their field of study.

The recruitment process of peer reviewers should be improved. The type of work academic publishers distribute should also be examined thoroughly. The methodology used in a research study or the content of the novel results should be correlated with the scientific publications of a researcher. Thus, either content or methodology should be used as a criterion for identifying an expert reviewer.

Journals should send vivid invitation letters to selected reviewers, which may or may not be many in number, depending on the field of study. The process is simpler when journal ask reviewers to accept or reject their invitation for review. There are many independent researchers from industries who can ease off the workload of academics. They too must be recruited. Finally, retired professors could form the creamy layer of peer reviewers.

Although double-blind peer review completely negates the biases towards nationalities of researchers, the open peer review process is also gaining ground. The identities of authors and reviewers are disclosed, which makes it a transparent process and increases human communication between authors and reviewers.

Consider the academic review process of Royal Society Open Sciences. It publishes the decisions of the journals editors; it publishes the review letters; and it also requests the voluntary peer reviewers to disclose their identity. The Open Access movement is gaining ground in academic publishing. Greater emphasis is now given to research studies that have time-sensitive parameters.



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