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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 69  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 1516--1517

Authors, Reviewers, and Publishers- The Ecosystem for Scientific Documentation: Is this Enough?

P Sarat Chandra 
 Department of Neurosurgery, AIIMS, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
P Sarat Chandra
Department of Neurosurgery, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi – 110 029

How to cite this article:
Chandra P S. Authors, Reviewers, and Publishers- The Ecosystem for Scientific Documentation: Is this Enough?.Neurol India 2021;69:1516-1517

How to cite this URL:
Chandra P S. Authors, Reviewers, and Publishers- The Ecosystem for Scientific Documentation: Is this Enough?. Neurol India [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 20 ];69:1516-1517
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The edifice of scientific documentation is based on writing, reviewing, and publishing following a blinded peer review. This has been the age-old practice for validating any scientific technique, paradigms, method of treatment, or scientific hypothesis. The importance can be gauged by observing the papers published on this topic.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16] However, there is also a great need to strengthen this system currently.

In their overview of the peer-reviewed process, enhancing training for the reviewer: Lovejoy et al.[1] stresses the need for structured reviewer training. Education for reviewers should be ongoing, like training young authors on writing papers. It does sound a bit ironic that academic performances are based on publications. Still, no one seems to merit reviewing documents, especially when it happens to be the most crucial aspect of validating the scientific work. Therefore, regular accredited courses must be provided for reviewers, particularly to assess 1.) the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript 2.) guide authors for improving scientific process and communications.

Enhancing the reviewer base and recruiting reviewers based on their expertise: Peer reviewing is often viewed as a task for senior-most faculty. Such a perception has several flaws. First, it would reduce the reviewer base over time and would not allow people to review papers of their expertise specifically. The training to review documents should be provided to junior faculty right from the beginning itself. Education for reviewing should go alongside training to write papers.

Reasons why reviewers usually reject manuscripts: Analysis of over 151 peer-reviewed research manuscripts published were re-reviewed by blinded reviewers. Eight areas were rated on a five-point scale (excellent, good, fair, unsatisfactory, and not acceptable). The eight areas were problem statement and background, research design, sampling, instrumentation, data collection, results, conclusion, writing, and importance. Finally, each reviewer was asked to use a four-point (definitely include; acceptable, probably have; questionable, probably exclude; exclude) global rating and give additional comments on merits or shortcomings of submission. It was seen that nearly two-fifths of the reviewers recommended rejection without marking unsatisfactory ratings on the checklist. The most important reasons for acceptance included importance, timeliness, relevance, and critical pertinent problem. Poor quality writing was also an essential factor for acceptance. As summarized by Bordage[6], both science and good writing determined acceptance. Hence, it becomes necessary for authors to pay attention to language and grammar. A manuscript with significant language and grammar shortcomings usually precludes the reviewers from paying attention to the scientific aspects of the paper.

Understanding the role of the reviewer: There are some excellent papers published describing[6],[9],[15],[17],[18] the reviewer's responsibilities. Firstly, the reviewer needs to be 'professional,' meaning to participate in the review process as a professional obligation to enhance the quality of the paper. It's essential not only to identify shortcomings but also to offer suggestions to fix the unidentified problems. It's equally important not to use overt criticisms. If any, they may be directed to the Editor. The reviewer needs to be 'scientific'. The reviewer should understand that their role is contributing scientific knowledge and not as a proof reader. It's again important to be 'timely.' Editors notice when a reviewer sticks to deadlines (or when they don't). Several publishing companies now have an internal rating system of reviewers. Currently, platforms are being built which are building the credibility of professional competence not only based on publications but also on the reviewing capabilities. Reviewers have also been advised to be 'emphatic,' i.e., treat others the way you want to be treated. Reviewers should be 'open' while reviewing, even from a subject they do not have adequate expertise in. They should not try to form opinions to guess the place or institute from which the paper has been published. Finally, the reviewer should be 'organized.' They should specifically start with an overview, give feedback on the paper structure, quality of data sources, investigation methods, methodology, argument flow, and conclusions' validity. The reviewer should comment on the paper style/voice and give suggestions for improvement.

The current practice of peer review has been in practice for several decades. Though it has several shortcomings, it still forms the best method for validating scientific publications. Since reviewing forms a critical component to validate the strengths and weaknesses of a paper, it is crucial to develop a robust reviewer rating system. Platforms assessing the merit of authors based on publications should also develop a methodology based on an assessment of reviewer capabilities. Both publishing and reviewing complete the cycle of scientific publishing. It is essential to strengthening both to create an optimal ecosystem.


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