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Open peer review: A randomised controlled trial

  • Elizabeth Walsh (a1), Maeve Rooney (a2), Louis Appleby (a3) and Greg Wilkinson (a4)
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Background

Most scientific journals practise anonymous peer review. There is no evidence, however, that this is any better than an open system.

Aims

To evaluate the feasibility of an open peer review system.

Method

Reviewers for the British Journal of Psychiatry were asked whether they would agree to have their name revealed to the authors whose papers they review; 408 manuscripts assigned to reviewers who agreed were randomised to signed or unsigned groups. We measured review quality, tone, recommendation for publication and time taken to complete each review.

Results

A total of 245 reviewers (76%) agreed to sign. Signed reviews were of higher quality, were more courteous and took longer to complete than unsigned reviews. Reviewers who signed were more likely to recommend publication.

Conclusions

This study supports the feasibility of an open peer review system and identifies such a system's potential drawbacks.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Elizabeth Walsh, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

GW is the Editor, L.A. an Assistant Editor and EW and M.R. Trainee Editors of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Footnotes
References
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Black, N., van Rooyen, S., Godlee, F., et al (1996) What makes a good reviewer and a good review for a general medical journal. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280, 231233.
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Godlee, F., Gale, C. R. & Martyn, C. N. (1998) Effect on the quality of peer review of blinding reviewers and asking them to sign their reports. A randomised controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280, 237240.
Hyams, K. C. (1996) Letter. Lancet 34, 132133.
McNutt, R. A., Evans, A. T., Fletcher, R. H., et al (1990) The effects of blinding on the quality of peer review: a randomised trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 263, 13711376.
Smith, R. (1999) Opening up BMJ peer review. A beginning that should lead to complete transparency. British Medical Journal, 318, 45.
SPSS (1996) SPSS for Windows: Base System User's Guide. Release 7.5.1. Chicago, IL: SPSS Inc.
van Rooyen, S., Godlee, F., Evans, S., et al (1999) Effect of open peer review on quality of reviews and on reviewers' recommendations: a randomised trial. British Medical Journal, 318, 2327.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Open peer review: A randomised controlled trial

  • Elizabeth Walsh (a1), Maeve Rooney (a2), Louis Appleby (a3) and Greg Wilkinson (a4)
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