How can we diversify the peer review community?

Publons’ Global State of Peer Review 2018 is here! Far-reaching and pulling no punches, this largescale report assesses the lay of the research landscape to improve the future of peer review.



Diversity is one of the key themes for Peer Review Week and a major focus for our inaugural report. In the third of our Publisher insight articles read on to discover the views of WileySAGEThe British Institute of Radiology, and the Association of University Presses on the importance of increasing diversity within the Peer Review Community.

Tami Potten, Editorial Development Manager, The British Institute of Radiology:


The Peer Review Community is not diverse enough and would certainly benefit from tapping into a wider spectrum of expertise.

It is vital that we attract and train the next generation of reviewers but this can be reliant on the attitude and support of department heads and institutions.

It is vital that young graduate students are aware of the important role a peer reviewer plays and that if they plan on publishing their own work, which will itself benefit from peer review, they feel a sense of reciprocal responsibility to participate in that same process as a reviewer.

Kristen Marchetti, Associate Director of Peer Review, SAGE:

We would certainly welcome more diversity in the Peer Review Community, as well as throughout the entire publishing and scholarly community sector. Engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds, connecting with early careers researchers, and achieving a good representation on gender and ethnic diversity allows for different or unique perspectives to be heard, thereby enriching the scientific body of knowledge, and increasing relevance and engagement.

The issue of diversity has been a focus at SAGE for some time – we have, and continue to make a conscious effort to expand the editorial boards across many of our journals to include academics from all over the globe, and to include previously under-represented groups. Additionally by making resources such as our Reviewer Gateway and Reviewer’s Guide broadly available we aim to support new reviewers who may be learning how to provide effective reviewer comments.

We are also engaging with new methods of peer review conducted on individual journals so that there is more transparency into the peer review process and diversity in terms of the forums where new voices can be heard.

We also have journals that engage directly with diversity in research. For example, the journal Trauma, Violence, & Abuse explicitly requires that authors include a discussion on diversity as it applies to the research being reviewed and acknowledges diversity as a core value “for expanding knowledge and practice with all human beings. While science seeks knowledge that can be generalized, it must appreciate that specific findings, while important in understanding the unique experiences of individuals or groups, are not necessarily applicable to all.”

Peter Berkery, Executive Director, Association of University Presses:

I don’t believe there can be any serious disagreement with the proposition that diverse groups reach better decisions, that diversity facilitates improved outcomes.

Scholarly communications has an urgent need to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in every aspect of its enterprise, and peer review is no exception.

University presses grapple with this need in nearly every aspect of our work – from recruiting diverse staffs through bring[ing] diverse voices to our author pool all the way to diversifying the blurbers we choose to feature on our dust jackets. There’s no easy fix for a challenge this pervasive, but it’s incumbent on every actor in the system to work to bring about change. AUP and our members are taking new—and necessary—steps to expand the diversity of university press staffs, authors, readers, and reviewers.

Elizabeth Moylan, iPublisher, Research Integrity and Publishing Ethics, Wiley:

Achieving more diversity and inclusivity in peer review is fundamental, including involving more early career researchers, people from different countries, backgrounds and women. The American Geophysical Union (AGU), with whom Wiley works in a publishing services partnership, explored the role of gender in peer review in detail. They found that women do not review papers as often as would be anticipated given their participation as researchers in the field. Rather worryingly, this ‘gap’ seems to stem from the fact that researchers and editors do not suggest or invite women as reviewers as frequently as men. The AGU have put forward some recommendations to address this, including asking researchers to consider diversity when they suggest potential peer reviewers on submission.

But as the AGU conclude, more data is needed to capture the extent of the problem, a point made by others too, before we can adopt initiatives to broaden diversity.

Publishers are ideally placed to collect data on diversity and gender and adopt measures to increase inclusivity.

Other organisations working collaboratively with publishers (e.g. PEERE and Publons) could share information on diversity in peer review too.

Publons Global State of Peer Review Report

What does the peer review landscape look like today? Is it getting better or worse? And who’s actually doing all the peer review, anyway? We made it part of our Peer Review Week mission to find out.

  • Publons’ Global State of peer review report combines:
  • Rich and extensive data from Clarivate Analytic’s ScholarOne Manuscripts and Web of Science
  • Data-driven analysis from Publons’ exclusive cross-publisher peer review platform
  • Survey responses from ~12,000 researchers around the globe
  • Statistics and insight to reveal the peer uncover the future direction of peer review.

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