A code of conduct for post-publication peer review

Posted by on December 6, 2015

Post-publication peer reviewAt Epistemio, we believe that post-publication peer review will take an increasingly important role in research assessment. For example, aggregating ratings will lead to peer-review-based metrics of quality and importance of individual publications, eliminating the problems of current indicators indicated, for example, in the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).

Post-publication peer review will achieve its potential only if it will be performed responsibly and ethically. While there are various codes of conduct for traditional pre-publication peer review, there were no clear guidelines for post-publication peer review.

We have recently developed a code of conduct for post-publication peer review, by adapting the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)’s Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. This code of conduct has already been included in our recently updated Terms of Use, which should be observed by all of our users, including those who post on Epistemio ratings and reviews of the publications they read.

Here is this code of conduct:

Scientists should publish ratings or reviews of a publication only if all of the following apply:

  • they have the subject expertise required to carry out a proper assessment of the publication;
  • they do not have any conflict of interest;
  • they have read the publication thoroughly and with great care.

Situations of conflict of interest include, but are not limited to, any of the following:

  • working at the same institution as any of the authors of the publication (or planning to join that institution or to apply for a job there);
  • having been recent (e.g. within the past 3 years) mentors, mentees, close collaborators or joint grant holders with the authors of the publication;
  • having a close personal relationship with any of the authors of the publication.

Additionally, all of the following should be observed:

  • the assessment should be based on the merits of the publication and not be influenced, either positively or negatively, by its origins, by the nationality, religious or political beliefs, gender or other characteristics of the authors, by commercial considerations, by any personal, financial, or other conflicting considerations or by intellectual biases;
  • the assessment should be honest, fair, and reflect the reviewer’s own views;
  • the review should be objective and constructive;
  • the reviewer should refrain from being hostile or inflammatory, from making libelous or derogatory personal comments, and from making unfounded accusations or criticisms;
  • the reviewer should be specific in her/his criticisms, and provide evidence with appropriate references to substantiate critical statements;
  • the reviewer should be aware of the sensitivities surrounding language issues that are due to the authors writing in a language that is not their own, and phrase the feedback appropriately and with due respect;
  • if the review or comment is anonymous, the reviewer should not write it in a way that suggests that it has been written by another identifiable person.

Publishing on Epistemio a rating of a scientific publication that you have read lately takes no more than one minute. Here is how you can do it:

  • Log in or sign up;
  • Search the publication you would like to rate, for example by typing its title;
  • Add the rating;
  • Optionally, add a review that supports your rating.