Université Paris Descartes Université Sorbonne Centre Cochrane Français AP-HP INSERM

Evaluating alternative systems of peer review: a large scale agent-based modelling approach of scientific publication

The debate on whether the peer-review system is in crisis has been heated recently. A variety of alternative systems have been proposed to improve the system and make it sustainable. However, we lack sufficient evidence and data related to these issues. Here we used a previously developed agent-based model of the scientific publication and peer-review system calibrated with empirical data to compare the efficiency of five alternative peer-review systems with the conventional system. We modelled two systems of immediate publication, with and without online reviews (crowdsourcing), a system with only one round of reviews and revisions allowed (re-review opt-out) and two review-sharing systems in which rejected manuscripts are resubmitted along with their past reviews to any other journal (portable) or to only those of the same publisher but of lower impact factor (cascade). The review-sharing systems outperformed or matched the performance of the conventional one in all peer-review efficiency, reviewer effort and scientific dissemination metrics we used. The systems especially showed a large decrease in total time of the peer-review process and total time devoted by reviewers to complete all reports in a year. The two systems with immediate publication released more scientific information than the conventional one but provided almost no other benefit. Re-review opt-out decreased the time reviewers devoted to peer review but had lower performance on screening papers that should not be published and relative increase in intrinsic quality of papers due to peer review than the conventional system. Sensitivity analyses showed consistent findings to those from our main simulations. We recommend prioritizing a system of review-sharing to create a sustainable scientific publication and peer-review system.

Download the code

Download the figures

You can also find the code used in the paper in Github: https://github.com/kovanostra/alternative-systems-of-peer-review

Check out our agent-based model of the peer-review system: http://www.clinicalepidemio.fr/peerreview_abm/

Check out our paper on the burden of journal peer review in the biomedical literature: http://www.clinicalepidemio.fr/peerreview_burden/

Diagrams of the alternative systems of peer review

figure 2

References :

Michail Kovanis, RaphaëlPorcher, Philippe Ravaud, Ludovic Trinquart. Evaluating alternative systems of peer review: a large scale agent-based modelling approach of scientific publication. Article submitted for publication

Contacts : michail.kovanis*AT*aphp.fr, raphael.porcher*AT*aphp.fr, philippe.ravaud*AT*aphp.fr, ludovic.trinquart*AT*aphp.fr