EDITORIAL

Referees should exercise their rights

Peer reviewers should not feel pressured to produce a report if key data are missing.
A man reading data from a computer screen

Experts reviewing manuscripts can ask for more data from authors.Credit: Laurence Dutton/Getty

At Nature, we recognize that our peer reviewers have certain ‘rights’. One of the most well known is the right to anonymity. Less widely known is that referees have the right to view the data and code that underlie a work if it would help in the evaluation, even if these have not been provided with the submission. Yet few referees exercise this right. They should do so.

Editors try to ensure that a manuscript contains sufficient detail and supporting data to allow a rigorous evaluation, while recognizing that access to some data may be restricted because of privacy concerns. We urge referees to check whether they have all the data and code they need before drafting their review. They should never feel pressured to supply a report if key information is lacking, and should feel free to contact Nature to request access. Some Nature Research journals go further: Scientific Data requires all data to be hosted in a trusted and accessible repository before a paper is submitted. And Nature Methods, Nature Biotechnology and Nature Machine Intelligence have this month begun to trial tools to enhance peer review of code.

Such practices obviously improve the review process and thus, ultimately, the paper itself. And requests to authors to supply data provide an important feedback mechanism, helping to encourage data and code sharing in the research communities.

Nature 560, 409 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06006-y
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the daily Nature Briefing email newsletter

Stay up to date with what matters in science and why, handpicked from Nature and other publications worldwide.

Sign Up