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Highlights and updates from the 9th Peer Review Congress: An insider’s perspective

The 9th International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication or the Peer Review Congress, a three-day event, commenced on 8th September 2022 and concluded on 10th September 2022. Being a notable event in the scholarly publishing industry, the event was attended by editors and publishers in scholarly publishing, funders, policymakers, ethicists, researchers, and science communicators.

The 9th Peer Review Congress featured an impressive selection of presentations — 50 plenary session reports, 86 poster session reports, and 39 original researched-based virtual posters. Jayashree Rajagopalan, who is the Community Lead at CACTUS and Co-Chair of Peer Review Week 2022, was in attendance at the event and shares some highlights and notes.

Day 1 (8th September 2022)

Peer Review Congress 2022 began with a day filled with discussions and talk around the themes of ethics in research and publication, misconduct, and best practices in research and peer review. Some of the topics that were discussed include the use of AI-based tools for detecting image duplication prior to manuscript acceptance, the effect of alerting authors of systematic reviews and that research they cited had been retracted, and publication and collaboration anomalies in manuscripts originating from a Russia-based paper mill. Other sessions focused on pilots of journal submission and peer review processes. One interesting session analyzed the impact of positive versus negative reviewer-led discussions on the acceptance rates of papers submitted to a machine learning conference, with the aim of examining the presence of herding behavior in peer reviewer discussions about whether a manuscript should be accepted or rejected. 

The day also progressed with sessions focused on conversations of great interest to the scientific community at large, gender and geographical diversity and inclusion, and pandemic science. Diversity, equity, and inclusionin peer review was a particularly engaging segment, given the increasing efforts by many in the community to draw attention to this subject. The sessions centered around studies on women’s representation in peer review of medical journals, patterns of gender and international diversity of editors and editorial boards (among journals with open access licenses and open science policies), factors associated with geographical diversity of invited reviewers, and comparison of reporting race and ethnicity in medical journals before and after implementation of reporting guidance. The segment on pandemic science underscored theneed for credible dissemination of research particularly during a global crisis.

Day 2 (9th September 2022)

There is need for more push for rewarding best practices to improve the credibility of research findings, a notion emphasized by Brian Nosek, Executive Director, Center for Open Science. His session was on Registered Reports, a new publishing model aiming to help reduce publication bias and improve scientific rigor. This model introduces an initial peer review before the research is completed, enabling the reviewer to focus on methodology and design rather than the outcomes. 

 Photo credit: Jayashree Rajagopalan

The segment on author and peer reviewer guidance and traininghighlighted the consensus among attendees for the needfor peer reviewer training and its important role in broadening reviewer pools and improving diversity and inclusion. Sessions included topics on reminding peer reviewers of the important reporting guidelines to improve completeness in published articles and an assessment of a structured and mentored peer review curriculum on the quality of peer review. The peer review-focused segment saw engaging discussions about ways to explore, articulate, and show exactly how peer review improved a manuscript. This segment also displayed research related to non-biomedical fields, which included comparison of review scores of computer science conference submissions with cited and uncited reviewers, association between author prominence and peer reviewers’ willingness to review and their evaluations of manuscripts submitted to a finance journal, and studies focusing on manuscript changes between submission/preprint and peer-reviewed journal publication. 

The second day of the 9th Peer Review Congress also covered studies on dissemination of clinical trial findings, grant review, and funded research, and concluded with a session by Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Vice President, Research Intelligence, Elsevier. The sessions featured Elsevier’s new project aimed at improving publishing equality and research equity. Held in parallel with these sessions were poster presentations, displaying an array of interesting research. 

 Photo credit: Jayashree Rajagopalan

 Photo credit: Jayashree Rajagopalan

Day 3 (10th September 2022)

Day 3 opened with a talk by Tony Ross-Hellauer, Leader, Open and Reproducible Research Group (ORRG) at TU Graz and Senior Researcher at Know-Center, Austria, on peer review in the age of open science. The session highlighted the need for more evidence-based studies for better understanding the process of peer review and improved standards to make peer reviews more efficient, accessible, participative, and discoverable.

 Photo credit: Jayashree Rajagopalan

The focal point of this segment on data sharing and access were the calls from presenters for more openness to sharing data, making peer review reports open, and exploring ways to increase transparency in research reporting. Other sessions also included topics such as prevalence and characteristics of data sharing policies across the health research life cycle and frequency of data and code sharing in medical research. Further sessions of the day presented interesting research on content analysis of comments on bioRxiv and medRxiv preprints and media attention, Twitter engagement and citations of COVID-19 clinical trial preprints and their corresponding peer-reviewed publications. Topics covered under the theme of open science, reproducibility, and post-publication peer review included open science policies of surgical journals and an assessment of post-publication critique policies and practices at top-ranked journals in 22 scientific disciplines. The segment on social media and citations focused on the use of social media to amplify published research and citation practices. 

Day 3 also featured exhibits of a new set of poster presentations. One of the posters was by Duncan MacRae, Director, Editorial Strategy and Publishing Policy, Wolters Kluwer Health. The study was co-authored by CACTUS and presented an evaluation of the use of Paperpal Preflight, an AI-driven, free automated web-based tool created by CACTUS to aid in detection of common issues that arise during manuscript preparation, and its effect on initial rejection rates. 

 Photo credit: Jayashree Rajagopalan

The 9th Peer Review Congress was a wonderful opportunity for key stakeholders in the scholarly publishing community to come together to stay updated about new advances in the field and discuss matters concerning the threats to research integrity.

More information about the sessions and event will be made available on the official website of Peer Review Congress 2022. 

Nisha Nair

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