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Developing #TrustInPeerReview from author to audience, Part 4: Trust is appreciated by the reader

We have now explored the roles of authors, reviewers, and publishers in the peer review process and how those three sets of actors affect an established culture of trust in peer review – the theme of this year’s Peer Review Week event. In summary, authors establish trust through integrity of research and reporting, reviewers develop that trust through unbiased and constructive feedback, and publishers demonstrate trust through effective and transparent communication of the peer review processes in place.

When in concert with one another, these three aspects lead to an ultimate reader satisfaction and appreciation of the process by which they can trust the results of the peer review process culminating in the manuscript they receive.  In today’s post, we will explore some of the factors of audience appreciation as they relate to trust in peer review.

Public opinion of scientific community

In last week’s Scholarly Kitchen article, Haseeb Irfanullah summarized an August 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center. “In case of research findings, about 60% Americans would trust more if the data were publicly available. More than half respondents said research findings are more trustworthy if they were reviewed by an independent committee.”

This public opinion may be based on a lack of awareness of the processes already in place for peer-reviewed research or due to a lack of clarity and transparency of the process, as discussed in yesterday’s post.

Alice Meadows said, “I would argue that it is just as important — if not more so — that readers also understand how the research they’re reading has been reviewed.” She proposed the following questions for consideration in assessing from the reader perspective:

  • How many reviewers were there?
  • How were they selected — were they recommended by the author(s), hand picked by the editor, or identified via an algorithm?
  • What are the minimum requirements for a review — is it a simple check box exercise or are reviews more extensive?

A different perspective from within

Rick Anderson questioned whether trust in peer review is an actual concern or more public perception. Citing research from within the scholarly community, Anderson said, “according to Sense about Science’s 2019 Peer Review Survey, 90% of researchers believe that peer review improves the quality of research, and 85% believe that peer review is essential to maintaining appropriate control in scientific publication.” While there is room for improvement regardless, trust in peer review may be stronger than it appears from the public perspective.

As we conclude our discussion of trust in peer review, it’s important to note that everyone has a role to play in improving the trust that results from the process and the perception of readers both inside and outside of the scholarly research community.

Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.