Nature Peer Review Trial and Debate

December 2006

The peer review trial described below has now closed. Nature's analysis of the results is published within the peer-review debate focus.

June 2006

Nature is undertaking a trial of a particular type of open peer review. In this trial, authors whose submissions to Nature are sent for peer review will also be offered the opportunity to participate in an open peer review process (see below for explanation). The trial is optional for authors; it will continue in parallel with Nature's usual procedures, and does not affect the likelihood of eventual publication of the submitted work. At the same time as the trial, Nature is running a web debate on peer review, to which we welcome comments from readers.

Web Debate

The web debate contains a range of perspectives about peer review from those who believe it is working well, to those who prefer other options. What is the value of peer review, and how does it ensure quality? What are the ethical concerns? Are there viable alternatives, either technical or in terms of management of the process? And above all, what is the scientists' experience of the process, either as authors or as reviewers themselves? Nature's web debate provides a lively range of views. We invite you to read the commissioned articles, and to post your own comments arising from them in our Peer-to-peer blog.

Peer Review Trial

Nature's peer review trial lasted for four months, from June to September 2006. Authors could choose to have their submissions posted on a preprint server for open comments, in parallel with the conventional peer review process. Anyone in the field could then post comments, provided they were prepared to identify themselves. Once the usual confidential peer review process is complete, the public 'open peer review' process was closed and the editors made their decision about publication with the help of all reports and comments. Nature reported on the results of the trial in December 2006. The report can be read here, and comments on it from readers can be made at the Peer-to-Peer blog.

Nature's peer review trial

Peer review is the bedrock of scientific publication (for Nature's position on peer review, see our Guide to Authors). It is widely considered essential for improving submitted papers and enhancing the credentials of scientists as well as those of the journals in which they choose to publish.

But, like any process, peer review requires occasional scrutiny and assessement. Has the Internet bought new opportunities for journals to manage peer review more imaginatively or by different means? Are there any systematic flaws in the process? Should the process be transparent or confidential? Is the journal even necessary, or could scientists manage the peer review process themselves?

Nature's peer review process has been maintained, unchanged, for decades. We, the editors, believe that the process functions well, by and large. But, in the spirit of being open to considering alternative approaches, we are taking two initiatives: a web debate and a trial of a particular type of open peer review.

The trial will not displace Nature's traditional confidential peer review process, but will complement it. From 5 June 2006, authors may opt to have their submitted manuscripts posted publicly for comment.

Any scientist may then post comments, provided they identify themselves. Once the usual confidential peer review process is complete, the public 'open peer review' process will be closed. Editors will then read all comments on the manuscript and invite authors to respond. At the end of the process, as part of the trial, editors will assess the value of the public comments.

At the close of the trial, we will assess the value of public comments overall as well as the practicalities of their inclusion on a longer-term basis. We will publish an account of the trial and our conclusions.

For further details about the trial for authors and reviewers, please go to the question and answer page provided. Further general questions not answered by this list can be directed to the editors. Questions from authors and referees about particular manuscript submissions should be sent to the editor who is handling the manuscript.

Philip Campbell PhD / Editor-in-Chief, Nature