Scholarly output continues to accelerate in volume, specialization, and interdisciplinary scope. Publishers sit at crossroads in this new landscape: they must absorb increased submissions, better match considered manuscripts to peer reviewers around the world, ensure the publication of quality content, while at the same time reducing the time from submission to publication. More publishers are turning to electronic management tools to help navigate and streamline workflow for both authors and reviewers. The resultant increased efficiency also frees more time for quality assurance. The benefits extend to other stages and other participants in the publishing process, easing and supporting submission and review, enriching content, accelerating publication, and opening doors to new models of peer review.
While the emerging tools available to publishers may help realize the potential for 21st century scholarship, understanding how best to incorporate these tools to meet unique needs can be challenging. Each journal must operate according to its mission and scope. Even for basic interactions, the answer is not necessarily maximum automation. Editors must be careful to maintain relationships with authors and reviewers and not burden or alienate them by externalizing in-house procedures. Editors must also be mindful of the large picture, the function behind each tool, less they risk information overload or integrating processes that run counter to their stated goals.
This report reviews the opportunities, and considerations, for leveraging electronic tools in manuscript creation and submission and in the management of the peer review process. The first step is a careful mapping of a journal’s current peer review process—the points of external contact, decision-making criteria, and internal processes that move manuscripts toward publication decisions. Next, a review of the emerging tools and strategies available to publishers for each stage identifies the potential areas where improvements can be made or best practices applied. The report concludes with a survey of five emerging practices or approaches that re-imagine how peer review operates in the digital era.
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