Peer review lies at the heart of the scientific method and Reviewers play a pivotal role in scholarly publishing. The peer review system exists to validate academic work and helps to improve the quality of published research. Despite criticisms about the integrity of peer review, peer review is still the only widely accepted method for research validation and has continued successfully with relatively minor changes since the first academic journal was launched in 1665 (more than 350 years ago!). This policy describes the types of peer review which can apply to Athena publications as well as some of the key principles which form the basis of the peer review process.
Athena International Publishing relies on peer review to uphold the quality and validity of published articles. There are different types of peer review, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages:
Single-blind peer review. In this type of peer review the names of Reviewers are hidden from the Authors. This is the traditional and most common method of reviewing. Points to consider regarding this type of peer review include: (1) reviewer anonymity allows for impartial decisions – the Reviewers should not be influenced by the Authors; (2) Authors may be concerned that Reviewers in their field could delay publication, giving the Reviewers a chance to publish first; (3) Reviewers may use their anonymity as a justification for being unnecessarily critical or harsh when commenting on the Author’s work.
Double-blind peer review. In this type of peer review both the Reviewers and the Authors are anonymous. Some advantages of this model are: (1) Author anonymity limits Reviewer bias, for example, based on an Author’s gender, country of origin, academic status or previous publication history; (2) articles written by prestigious or renowned Authors are considered on the basis of their content rather than reputation. Bear in mind that despite the above, Reviewers can still often identify an Author through their writing style, subject matter expertise or (self-)citation behavior and it is exceedingly difficult to guarantee total anonymity for Authors.
Triple-blind peer review. In this type of peer review, Reviewers are anonymous and the Author’s identity is unknown to both the Reviewers and the Editors. Articles are anonymized at the submission stage and are handled in such a way as to minimize any potential bias towards the Author(s). However, it should be noted that the complexities involved with anonymizing articles and Authors to this level are considerable and as with double-blind peer review there is still a possibility for the Editor and/or Reviewers to correctly identify an Author from their writing style, subject matter expertise, citation behavior or in a number of other ways.
Open peer review. This is an umbrella term for many different peer review models aimed at greater transparency during and after the peer review process. The most common type of open peer review is when both the Reviewer and the Author are known to each other. Other types of open peer review include: (1) publication of Reviewers’ names on the article; (2) publication of peer review reports alongside the article, whether signed or anonymous; (3) publication of peer review reports (signed or anonymous) together with Authors’ and Editors’ responses alongside the article; (4) publication of an article after a quick technical check only and opening up a discussion forum to the community who can comment on it (post-publication peer review), either signed or anonymous.
The merits of the different peer review systems have been a subject of considerable discussion within the research community. Many believe that in theory an open peer review system should be the best way to prevent malicious comments, stop plagiarism, prevent Reviewers from following their own agenda and to encourage open and honest reviewing. However, others see open peer review as a less honest process in which politeness or fear of retribution may cause a Reviewer to withhold or tone down criticism.
In general, transparency is the key to trust in peer review. So there is an increasing call within the scientific community towards more transparency around the peer review process. However, there is no evidence supporting one type of peer review over the other in this regard. Editors should therefore opt for the system that works well for their publications. Editors and Editorial Board members, as well as Reviewers themselves, are encouraged to refer to the Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers published by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) which describe the basic principles and standards to which all Reviewers should adhere during the peer review process.
Detailed information about peer review policies at journal or book/proceedings series level can be found in the Instructions for Authors of each publication. Readers and Authors will be informed in case peer review is handled differently across article types (e.g. editorials are not peer reviewed, but review papers are). Editors are expected to apply consistent standards in their peer review processes and workflows, including for special issues, supplements and where peer review has been managed by Guest Editors.
All manuscripts submitted are confidential documents and Editors should ensure that they remain so while handling them, without disclosing their details to anyone, except for Reviewers, without seeking the permission of the Authors. Editors have a duty to ensure that all those who perform peer review on behalf of a publication adhere to the necessity for confidentiality concerning the peer review process. Editors also have a responsibility to ensure that the quality and expertise of Reviewers match what is needed for the article. Reviewers are expected to disclose any conflicts of interest when they accept a peer review invitation and also when they submit their review (note that some conflicts may only be identified after evaluating the manuscript). Please refer to the Responsibilities in the Submission and Peer-Review Process published by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) for more information about the roles and responsibilities related to peer review.