Frequently asked questions for authors
FAQ: Transparent peer review
- What is transparent peer review?
- Why has Communications Earth & Environment implemented this scheme?
- Can peer reviewers opt out?
- Are reviewer names published?
- Does this apply to manuscripts that have been peer reviewed elsewhere?
- What if an author wants the peer review file to be edited pre-publication?
- What are the limitations of transparent peer review?
- Will you publish your editorial decision letters?
What is transparent peer review?
All peer reviewed research, review, and opinion articles published in Communications Earth & Environment will have a peer review file containing the editorial decision letters, reviewer comments to the authors and the author response letters published alongside the article.
Why has Communications Earth & Environment implemented this scheme?
We hope that publishing peer review files for all our peer reviewed research, review, and opinion articles will make the peer review process more transparent, and it may also facilitate a deeper understanding of the research that we publish. Transparent peer review also creates a useful resource for students and early career researchers looking for information on how the peer review system operates. For our peer reviewers, it has the benefit that if they wish to refer to, or share, one of their reviews, they can do so easily.
The system is already used successfully by a number of other publishers across several research areas, and has been in place as an author opt-in at Communications Earth & Environment since launch.
Can peer reviewers opt out?
Peer reviewers are informed of this initiative when invited to review and can decline to review the manuscript if they are not comfortable with their review being published. Acceptance to review is regarded as permission to release the reports.
However, given that their review will be anonymous if they choose not to sign their report we hope that they will not choose to decline a review invite. Reviewers also have the option to make confidential comments on the manuscript to the editor if they would like, although we would prefer that, in the interest of transparency, this is avoided. Any comments that the authors need to address in revision should be made in the ‘comments to the authors’ section of the reviewer’s report.
Are reviewer names published?
No. Unless reviewers sign the comments to the authors with their name, we will respect and maintain their full anonymity under all circumstances. However, if they would like, reviewers can request that their name be added to their comments at any point, up to and including at receipt of a notification that the manuscript has been accepted in principle.
Does this apply to manuscripts that have been peer reviewed elsewhere?
Authors sometimes transfer manuscripts between our journals. If a manuscript has been transferred to Communications Earth & Environment after peer review at another Nature portfolio journal, then we will receive those reviewer reports. However, these reports and the author responses to them will not be included in our peer review files, as those reports were submitted to the other journal without consent to potential publication. If the same reviewers subsequently agree to review for us, only their reviewer reports for Communications Earth & Environment will be included in the published peer review file. Instances of transferred manuscripts that were previously peer reviewed will be marked up in the peer review file, without naming the other journal.
What if an author wants the peer review file to be edited pre-publication?
The peer review files will contain the full decision letters, reviewer reports to authors, and the author rebuttal letters. The only exception is the disclosure of confidential data provided to editors or reviewers, which authors will be able to suggest for redaction. Redactions will be noted in the peer review files.
What are the limitations of transparent peer review?
The reviewer reports are taken into consideration when the editorial team decides whether to accept, reject or ask for changes to a manuscript, but just reading the peer review reports will not necessarily give a reader the complete picture of the decision-making process. For example, authors are encouraged to contact editors via email to ask questions about required revisions, or the possibility to appeal a decision. Such conversations will not appear in the peer review reports. Likewise, reviewer comments made confidentially to editors, and internal discussions between editors will remain confidential.
Will you publish your editorial decision letters?
Yes. Editors make informed decisions based on reviewer reports, and frequently provide authors with guidance on which of the issues raised by the reviewers they consider essential for the publication decision. This kind of editorial guidance of the revision process will be transparent from making the editorial decision letters publicly available with the published manuscripts.