Peer review at IOP Publishing

Peer review plays an essential role in maintaining quality across scientific scholarly communications. At IOP Publishing, we are dedicated to providing a high-quality peer review experience, with more than 60 staff across our global offices dedicated to managing the peer review process, allowing reviewers and board members to concentrate on the science. We are committed to providing a fair and impartial review process, and to providing the fastest possible service to authors.

Find out more about our unique approach and how we improve the peer review process for our authors.

Peer review at IOP Publishing: an infographic

Discover some interesting facts and figures about how we at IOP Publishing manage the peer review process.

Diversity & Inclusion: an ongoing commitment

We believe a quality peer review experience cannot be delivered without committing to diversity and inclusivity as a priority. To help enable this, our Diversity and Inclusion group aims to encourage diversity of reviewers, authors and editors from across the scientific community. You can find out more about our work on improving diversity and inclusion here.

Ethics: a dedicated panel

We are one of the few publishers to have a dedicated in-house ethics panel. The panel consists of staff trained in the very highest standards of publication ethics, and works to support authors, reviewers and our editorial board members. Its main goals are ensuring that our policies and procedures adhere to the COPE guidelines, and resolving complaints and disputes on authorship and other ethical matters. You can find out more about our ethics policy here. To further support quality in peer review, we are creating a new role dedicated to research integrity and inclusion.

Continuous improvement

As well as larger innovations such as Transparent Peer Review, we are committed to continuous improvement within existing systems. Our staff have the freedom and skills to enable them to solve problems, so they never recur. An example of a small change that provides incremental improvements is the introduction of better instructions for authors on preparing a document for revision. This led to improved quality of revisions and more than 2000 page views per month for guidance on this topic. Read more about our commitment to continuous improvement here. Authors and reviewers can contribute their improvement ideas by emailing improvements@ioppublishing.org

Open science: data availability statements

We encourage and support authors to make the data underpinning their articles more accessible. Three journals have trialled a new data policy requiring authors to include a data availability statement with their article, indicating whether data is accessible and if so, where it can be found and under what licensing terms. The policy also strongly encourages authors to share their data. We hope this policy may be able to improve peer review quality through greater transparency and reproducibility. Find out more about our open data here.

Publons: reviewer recognition

We are a long-term Publons development partner, helping to bring quality, transparency and recognition to peer review. We have helped verify over 122,410 reviews in our journals through Publons, crediting more than 20,500 reviewers with recognition for their work. These verifications can be linked to a reviewer’s ORCID profile alongside their research activities. Our partnership with Publons enables other developments such as transparent peer review and our co-review policy.

Technology and systems

We use all available industry best practice systems for ensuring quality, including iThenticate from Crossref to automatically scan each submission for plagiarism. This is used alongside a duplicate submission check on any articles moving through the submission process. Rigorous checks are added to reviewer selection, with an author–reviewer conflict of interest flag enabled through the Publons Reviewer Connect tool. Best practice champions also help ensure potential problems are flagged, relevant reviewers are selected and article checks are thorough.

Our peer review operation

We have a unique commitment to the scientific community, with more than 60 staff across our global offices dedicated to managing the peer review process. The goal of our peer review operation is to free up time for researchers to focus on the science, while we take on the administrative aspect of the peer review process. A recent ALPSP paper found the use of journal administrator‐assigned reviewers reduces the editor’s workload and allows them to focus on peer review decisions and strategic planning. Find out more about our peer review operation and how we have improved peer review quality in the form of Impact Factor and Net Promoter Score here.

Quality reviewer reports

We know our community of authors value the quality of peer review reports, while our reviewers value clear guidelines and the ease of submitting a report. As well as activities related to reviewer recruitment and selection, we continue to improve report forms guided by reviewer, author and board member feedback, with the aim to better guide the reviewer’s critique on the submitted manuscript. We also serve a diverse community and recognise that one size does not fit all when it comes to reviewer reports. Therefore, our forms are tailored to the needs of each community. You can contribute your ideas to improve the reviewer reporting process by emailing improvements@ioppublishing.org

Reviewer awards

Identifying and recognising high-quality peer review is key to maintaining the standards of our journals, and allows us to connect the best reviewers with the right authors. Each year we recognise excellence in peer review through our Reviewer Awards. Our journal editorial teams select the best reviewers of the year based on the quality, quantity and timeliness of reviews. In 2018, more than 1200 reviewers were recognised in this way; and 30 journals selected an individual Reviewer of the Year.

Our reviewer community

Our peer review operation requires a diverse and dedicated reviewer community. We have more than 72,000 unique active reviewers, who have completed over 260,000 reports since 2013. Reviewer profiles are based around a unique ‘research interest’ fields, which allow for more precise reviewer searches compared to narrow keyword filters. In addition to our maintained database, we use external tools and data sources including Web of Science, Scopus and Publons. Furthermore, our Reviewer Engagement Manager helps to shape the future reviewer community and expands our geographic diversity. Find out more here.

Volunteer to join our community of IOP Publishing reviewers here.

Co-review policy

Following feedback from reviewers across the world, we launched a co-review policy to enable early career researchers to gain credit for contributing to the review process with their supervisors. Our goal is to expand the diversity of our active reviewer pool, with supervisors ensuring rigorous quality while nurturing the next generation of researchers. Our user research has shown co-review is a common activity in many parts of the world, and the policy formally enables this part of the process.

IOP Publishing Academy

We are always looking for ways to engage with researchers and guide you through the sometimes complex world of academic publishing. Our Publishing Academy is a collection of educational resources and events to help early career researchers in particular. We regularly host “How to get published” workshops at institutions around the world, or as webinars. By attending one of these workshops, you will learn more about how to choose a journal; how to prepare your paper; the peer-review process; ethical issues and what to do once you have published. Through our Publishing Academy activities, we reached more than 1000 researchers in 2018.

Transparent peer review and double blind

We are exploring transparent peer review. When authors and reviewers for selected IOP Publishing journals choose to, we publish reviewer reports and author responses alongside the published article. We hope the increased transparency improves the accountability and quality of the review process. This major step in physics publishing sees the peer review content, hosted by our partners Publons, linked to the published article on our IOPscience platform. We are actively comparing the merits of double blind review alongside transparent peer review. Read more about our transparent peer review development here.

The future

We have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in academic publishing, and to ensuring our approach to peer review meets the highest ethical standards. Reflecting this commitment, our Research Integrity and Inclusion Manager works with our author and reviewer communities on matters relating to ethics, diversity and inclusion, and our Reviewer Engagement Manager focuses on our reviewer training programme and working closely with early career researchers. Read more here.

Feedback: Listening to our authors, reviewers and editors

To deliver a high-quality peer review experience, we are continually listening to feedback from our users. We ask our authors, reviewers, and staff what quality means to them, and we gather regular user feedback from channels including our Researcher Insight Group; author and reviewer surveys; and a central researcher community of interest to collate feedback from board meetings, conferences, etc.