EDITORIAL: The Plant Cell Begins Opt-in Publishing of Peer Review Reports

As of January 2017, The Plant Cell will offer authors the option of associating a Peer Review Report with each research article. Reviewer anonymity will be strictly maintained. The reports will include the major comments from reviewers and the editors’ decision letters along with the authors’ response to reviewers for each submission of the manuscript (including original, revised, and previously declined versions), as well as a timeline documenting the path of the manuscript from submission to publication (figure shows example). The decision letters typically include the substance of comments from any post-review consultation among editors and reviewers.editorialfig

ASPB members, as well as The Plant Cell authors, reviewers, and readers from whom we have heard have been enthusiastic about this venture, especially those in training (student, post-doctoral researcher) or early (junior group leader, assistant professor) stages of their careers. Benefits to publishing Peer Review Reports include their ability to demonstrate the criteria used for evaluating papers, usefulness for journal club discussions, and value as a tool for learning how to write good papers and responses to reviewer comments, as well as how to be a good reviewer. These factors are the main reasons we have chosen to launch this policy. However, preparation of the Peer Review Reports comes at some expense. We will monitor feedback and access/download statistics for two years, and may discontinue the program if the expense is found to outweigh the perceived value to the community. So please let us know!

Starting immediately, invitations to review a manuscript for The Plant Cell will include information about the Peer Review Report. As noted above, reviewers will remain anonymous in these reports. The editorial board is committed to preserving the power and utility of peer review and we feel strongly that reviewer anonymity is integral to the process. Statistics from other journals that have published similar peer review reports for a number of years indicate that publishing referee reports does not affect their ability to secure reviewers for papers, and we hope that the same will prove true for The Plant Cell.

After acceptance of a manuscript by the reviewing editor, the Peer Review Report (with author approval) will be prepared by the science editor handling the paper. The reports will follow a standard format and will reflect editing to remove the more minor comments, miscellaneous and mundane correspondence, and information that might identify a reviewer. Beginning with the June 2016 issue, examples of Peer Review Reports will be published for a small set of articles each month to introduce our readers, authors, and reviewers to the concept and test the format. Links to articles and reports included in this pilot program can be accessed via the Instructions for Authors.

As always, we welcome feedback from our readers to help us improve the quality of The Plant Cell.

Sabeeha Merchant
Editor in Chief
merchant@chem.ucla.edu
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2594-509X
Nancy A. Eckardt
Senior Features Editor
neckardt@aspb.org
ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1658-1412