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Journal editors’ perspectives on the roles and tasks of peer reviewers in biomedical journals: a qualitative study

Abstract : Objective Peer reviewers of biomedical journals are expected to perform a large number of roles and tasks, some of which are seemingly contradictory or demonstrate incongruities between the respective positions of peer reviewers and journal editors. Our aim was to explore the perspectives, expectations and understanding of the roles and tasks of peer reviewers of journal editors from general and specialty biomedical journals. Design Qualitative study. Setting Worldwide. Participants 56 journal editors from biomedical journals, most of whom were editors-in-chief (n=39), male (n=40) and worked part-time (n=50) at journals from 22 different publishers. Methods Semistructured interviews with journal editors were conducted. Recruitment was based on purposive maximum variation sampling. Data were analysed thematically following the methodology by Braun and Clarke. Results Journal editors' understanding of the roles and partly of tasks of peer reviewers are profoundly shaped by each journal's unique context and characteristics, including financial and human resources and journal reputation or prestige. There was a broad agreement among journal editors on expected technical tasks of peer reviewers related to scientific aspects, but there were different expectations in the level of depth. We also found that most journal editors support the perspective that authorship experience is key to high-quality reviews, while formal training in peer reviewing is not. Conclusion These journal editors' accounts reveal issues of a social nature within the peer-review process related to missed opportunities for journal editors to engage with peer reviewers to clarify the expected roles and tasks. Further research is needed on actual performance of peer reviewers looking into the content of peer-reviewer reports to inform meaningful training interventions, journal policies and guidelines.
Keywords : Interviews Decline
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Ketevan Glonti, Isabelle Boutron, David Moher, Darko Hren. Journal editors’ perspectives on the roles and tasks of peer reviewers in biomedical journals: a qualitative study. BMJ Open, BMJ Publishing Group, 2019, 9 (11), pp.e033421. ⟨10.1136/bmjopen-2019-033421⟩. ⟨hal-02962368⟩



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