Peer Review: an Editor-in-Chief’s perspective

By Anastasia Stefanidou, Communications Officer, Biochemical Society

One of the main drivers for the review process is to allow Editors to ensure research published in a specific scientific area is of high enough quality, through fair and unbiased evaluation by experts working in the same area, hence the term ‘peer’ review.

In the spirit of this year’s Peer Review Week (11–17 September 2017), the Editors-in-Chief of Portland Press journals, give us their thoughts on the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality.


The Biochemical Journal has been peer reviewing scientific manuscripts on biochemistry and molecular bioscience for over 110 years and seen many changes along the way as workflows, policy and processes have been refined and improved. Professor David Carling, Chair of the Editorial Board of the Biochemical Journal, says: “Peer review remains an essential element in the process of scientific publishing. Like many things in life, it is not a perfect system, although finding a better solution is not easy.”

Professor Rhian Touyz, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Clinical Science, has this view to share: “Peer review is probably the most important aspect of scientific publication as it provides the foundation for scrutiny of hypotheses, data and ideas, by experts in the field. Peer review should ideally be without conflict of interest and should provide constructive, not destructive, critical appraisal.”

These thoughts are echoed by several of our Editors-in-Chief.  Professor Aideen Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief of Neuronal Signaling, a new research journal, that covers all aspects of signaling, within and between neurons, comments: “The peer review process is critical for allowing me as an editor to evaluate the quality, integrity and potential impact of a scientific manuscript, based on dialogue with experts in the area.”

Professor Wanjin Hong, Editor-in-Chief of Bioscience Reports , a fully Open Access journal, agrees, but also believes it can help ensure clarity of data presentation. He says: “Peer review for scientific publications serves multiple roles in sciences particularly in improving the quality of results and clarity of data presentation and interpretation. Objective comments from peers are generally helpful and insightful.”

Spending time reviewing someone else’s work can be time-consuming, but Professor Colin Bingle, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Biochemical Society Transactions, believes this is a good investment. He comments: “Peer review is essential to my work both as an Editor and an author. Robust, timely and considered peer review underpins scientific development and should be seen as time well spent by all researchers.”. Biochemical Society Transactions is the reviews journal of the Biochemical Society that has recently implemented fresh peer-review workflows guided by a new Editorial Board.

Essays in Biochemistry and Emerging Topics in Life Science, a new interdisciplinary journal jointly-owned by the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society, publish thematic issues where the topical nature of the content is of great importance. It is not just articles that are peer reviewed; ideas for journal issue themes also undergo an evaluation process.

A key aspect of the peer review system is that every scientist, however senior, who wishes to publish research has to undergo the same assessment process. Recognizing the importance of this, Emerging Topics in Life Science Editor-in-Chief, Professor Colin Kleanthous observes: “Peer review in scientific publishing equalises everyone.”

Editor-in-Chief of Essays in Biochemistry, Professor Nigel Hooper highlights the value of peer review in ensuring relevance of content, as well as accuracy. “Peer review ensures that our papers are accurate, balanced and topical so that our readers can fully rely on them as a valuable resource.”

You can find out more about the Portland Press journals’ peer review processes in our Editorial Policy. If you would like to discuss any of the details of our peer review processes, please get in touch with our Editorial team.

This is just a short post discussing a few aspects of peer review that our Editors believe to be important, but peer review is a big and sometimes controversial topic. A blog post on The Scholarly Kitchen explores views on whether peer review should change and more discussion and debate has just taken place at the 8th International Congress on Peer Review held in Chicago last week.

Peer review affects us all — not just as authors or editors or publishers, but as readers and consumers of peer-reviewed scholarship in its immediate and derivative forms. So, what do you think?


What is Peer Review Week?

Peer Review Week is a global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality. The event brings together individuals, institutions, and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications. You can find more information about Peer Review Week here.

Peer Review Week 2017

This year’s theme is Transparency in Review, exploring what the concept means to various stakeholders participating in review activity – in publishing, grant review, conference submissions, promotion and tenure, and more. It will run from 11 to 17 September, with activities taking place on social media and across the globe.

What is going on during Peer Review Week?

  • 14 September – Webinar: Current Issues in Peer Review, 4pm BST – COPE
  • 14 September – Webinar: Tools of the Trade for Transparency, 12pm EST – CSE
  • 14 September – Seminar: Transparency in Peer Review and High Impact Research, 10am CET – The British University in Egypt (BUE)
  • 15 September – Webinar: What is ReviewerCredits and how can it contribute to transparency in #peerreview? 4pm CET – University of Milan-Bicocca

For more information, and to get involved with Peer Review Week activities, follow @PeerRevWeek on Twitter, and visit and follow #PeerRevWk17 and #TransparencyInReview across social media platforms.

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