Home Alternative guide Peer Review Week 2021 – Peer Review opens at BMC

Peer Review Week 2021 – Peer Review opens at BMC


To celebrate Peer Review Week 2021, we’re opening Peer Review at BMC, highlighting our plans to further support peer reviewers, champion diversity and inclusivity, and discuss plans and future directions as open access pioneers.

Since its founding over 20 years ago, BMC has been a pioneer and advance peer review. We are committed to promoting fair and progressive peer review and we are committed to making peer review more inclusive. On the BMC Series and the selective BMC reviews (BMC Biology, BMC Medicine, Genome biology and Genome medicine), we continue to examine the support we provide to researchers and how we can remove barriers to diversify peer review and reach more reviewers.

Global diversity

As the premier open access publisher, BMC puts openness and accessibility at the forefront of what we do and has ensured that the research we publish reaches an international audience. Our approach to peer review also reflects this diversity. Reviewers are contacted based on their experience and expertise, and we approach researchers from around the world to review. In the table, we show the global diversity of reviewers in our top 5 journals.

Newspaper BMC Public Health BMC infectious diseases BMC Health Services Research BMC Cancer BMC musculoskeletal disorders
Top 10 locations for our reviewers in 2020
1 United States United States United States United States United States
2 Australia Italy Australia China Japan
3 UK China UK Italy China
4 Canada UK Canada Japan Germany
5 China Brazil Germany Germany UK
6 Italy India Netherlands UK Italy
7 India Australia China Netherlands Australia
8 Brazil Japan Iran Australia Brazil
9 South Africa Spain Italy India Canada
ten Iran Canada South Africa Taiwan Netherlands

To augment openness and transparency in the peer review process and also to allow more diversity in our pool of reviewers, the BMC series introduced transparent peer review. The BMC series pioneered the open peer review that requires the identity of the reviewer to be revealed to authors. For transparent peer review, reviewer reports are published for all peer reviewed content and reviewers can choose to remain anonymous or sign their report. The move to a transparent peer review follows comments from the community that reviewers being required to share their name was a barrier for them to accept the review. Some reviewers may be reluctant to share their name, especially if they are at an early stage in their careers or want their name revealed to authors and the public. Providing the option to sign a report allows examiners to choose for themselves whether they wish to reveal their identity.

Support peer reviewers

Revising for the first time can seem intimidating and there can be uncertainty about what is expected of a reviewer and how to prepare a report. By providing support and guidance to our reviewers, we hope to increase the clarity of the peer review process and increase their confidence in their role as reviewers. The BMC Blog Network offers resources on “How to Peer Review for Beginners” that will guide novice reviewers in their role. BMC Medicine has a collection commissioned articles from experts in different types of research methodology that provide peer review advice to novice reviewers.

At BMC Series, we want to support those who review for us and provide them with the information they need when reviewing a manuscript for a BMC Series journal. We created the BMC Series Reviewer Page which provides a guide to responding to our invitation to review, how to assess and prepare a report for a BMC Series manuscript, and what to expect after review. The editors of the BMC series have also been involved in the development of statistical checklists that editors and reviewers can use when evaluating statistics in manuscripts and these are now part of our. reporting standards.

Editors of BMC selective journals (BMC Biology, BMC Medicine, Genome biology and Genome medicine) and the BMC series participate in an initiative launched in 2020 by Nature Communications to engage specifically with early career researchers (ECR). The RCT program aims to help RCTs become effective peer reviewers, provide information and instruction to RCTs on how to properly review manuscripts, and identify potential RCT candidates in order to expand current reviewer pools.

BMC Biology and BMC Medicine recently adopted a collaborative editorial model that directly involves members of the editorial board in the review, processing and decision-making of manuscripts, giving scientists the ability to manage the peer review process, while being fully supported by experienced in-house editors. The Editorial Board Member model offers an open call on journal websites for those who want to become EBM. Besides, BMC Biology provides the opportunity for scientists to apply to become examiners to the review.

We hope that providing training, resources and opportunities will remove the barrier researchers may face due to lack of experience as a reviewer or not understanding the process and expectations. This will allow us to expand and diversify our reviewer pools by giving more people the advice they need to become an editor.

Increase inclusiveness and diversity

We continue to explore new approaches to increase diversity and inclusiveness among people who revise for our journals. BMC Psychology launched a new collection ‘Psychology of diversity: the road from racism to inclusion‘which encourages research submissions on diversity, equity and inclusion. The journal accepts applications from researchers who wish to become reviewers for this collection and, thanks to the journal’s transparent peer review, they can choose to share their name publicly if the article is published.

BMC musculoskeletal disorders and BMC Rheumatology have launched a joint collection focused on Involvement of patients and the public in rheumatic and musculoskeletal research. The collection will allow patients, caregivers and interested members of the public to participate in the peer review process. This will give them insight into scientific publication and a voice in research.

Reviewers’ time is extremely valuable and often the reviewers we contact will not be available to review a manuscript. We encourage these reviewers to provide suggestions for alternative researchers when they decline our invitation. We target gender, race, ethnicity, geography, career stage and other diversity in our rater pool. Our peer review invitations ask reviewers to consider other reviewers from under-represented communities.

Future plans

Our resources will continue to be developed to ensure that all assessors are informed and supported in their role. Greater recognition needs to be given to early career researchers who review by peers with their supervisor. We will see how the names of those who have contributed to a reviewer report can be included and credited to recognize their work. As research and community standards advance, publishing must also expand. One example is the shift to open data and data sharing. Create opportunities for early career researchers to review standardized format papers such as Data Notes so that they can use their expertise to ensure that community standards are met. In the future, we hope to create initiatives to ensure that evaluators from diverse backgrounds and under-represented communities are offered opportunities, are encouraged and supported.

BMC is committed to taking progressive and innovative approaches to publishing. By working with the research community and listening to their feedback, we will continue to make peer review more transparent and inclusive.


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