A recent editorial by Christophe Bernard, editor in chief of eNeuro, keeps alive the discussion about ways to improve peer review.
Endorsement of our work by competent peers aids in improving its quality and scientific rigor. However, a perfect peer-review system has yet to be achieved and the process still remains a multifaceted issue in scientific publication. Gender and career stage may represent a significant factor adding to the potential bias of our peers when evaluating our work. Personally, I have no problems in receiving tough comments, as long as they are constructive, because they are meant to be for the benefit of the scientific community. What I cannot endorse, however, is the attitude that some reviewers exhibit, i.e., an aggressive communication style that is not intended to bring constructive criticism, may sound teasing and belittling and is only aimed at breaking our work into pieces. Most of the times, this type of peer-reviewing attitude ends with the rejection of the manuscript following one or more rounds of reviews made by fierce comments.
I think that gender and career stage may surely influence the way some peers conduct themselves when acting as reviewers, as the editorial also discusses. And I also agree that one possible solution to such issues could be a double-blind peer-review system. However, some of our peers are inherently destructive with their comments and even an interactive review process or the publication of reviewers’ names and their comments may fail in establishing boundaries between constructive and destructive peer-review.
Should we then establish guidelines in order to attain an appropriate style of peer review that is not offensive, but is constructive and actually helps improve our work? Can editors act as moderators and even decide to remove such reviewers from their assignment?