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[ Publishing Workflows ] September 28, 2023

How can we balance the needs of all stakeholders in peer review?

This Peer Review Week 2023, we’re exploring, celebrating, and critiquing one of the fundamental pillars of academic publishing.

But today, peer review is under pressure. Authors want to know editorial decisions faster, but reviewers are asked to review more and more papers each year, and they need more time.  How can we choreograph a dance that harmonizes the needs of authors, reviewers, and publishers?


What do authors want from peer review?

Of course, peer review is a process that demands time. Rushing through the evaluation of fellow researchers' work risks overlooking critical details and allowing inaccurate research to slip through the cracks. As academic Sunaina Singh also points out, “there are many administrative steps in the entire workflow.”
But, after triumphing over long research processes,  manuscript writing, and an often convoluted submission process, what authors need the most from peer review is efficiency. With the global time spent on peer review reaching a shocking 15,000 years in 2022, authors risk falling prey to predatory entities in order to see their research printed in a timely manner. 

We participated in a webinar alongside IOP Publishing, hosted by Research Information consultant editor Tim Gillett. Kim Eggleton, Head of Peer Review & Research Integrity at IOP, shared that the main complaints voiced by authors, especially those early in their career, are concerning the slow nature of the peer review system and its difficult submission processes. Through our partnership with IOP,  we aim to revolutionize and transform the journal submission system. We’re approaching this transformation with a service design mindset and a focus on the user experience, in order to create a more streamlined and author-friendly peer review process.


What about reviewers?

The academic community is experiencing a shortage of reviewers as the volume of research continues to expand. Nowadays, only 32.3% of scientists accept an editor’s request to review a paper on average. Their time is scarce, and aside from academic goodwill, there often isn't a substantial incentive to allocate their valuable time to the peer review process.

During the same  webinar, “Addressing Reviewer Bugbears with Innovations in Peer Review”, Michelle North, a postdoctoral researcher and reviewer, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, noted that she’s recently been inundated with many requests for peer review on the heels of summer vacation in the Global North. She suggests that a lack of coordination between journals has created this effect.

North also mentioned that it can be difficult from a reviewer’s perspective to edit manuscripts without taking into account the author’s command of the English language. This creates bias against authors for whom English is not their first language. 

She also highlighted the tensions between interdisciplinary reviewers and specialized review, suggesting that perhaps AI could be used to better categorize review requests and ensure that each reviewer is experienced in the field of the paper they are asked to evaluate.



Integrity is a top concern for nearly every publisher today. As of 2022, over 5.14 million academic articles are published per year, including short surveys, reviews, and conference proceedings. With this amount of scholarly information shared, researchers often find themselves struggling to keep their heads above water while navigating the pressure to publish.  In parallel with this increase in publications, we’ve seen a surge in retractions, integrity scandals, and, most concerning of all, a decline in public trust in science.

So, how are publishers taking proactive measures to uphold integrity at scale?

As highlighted by Eggleton, our collaboration with IOP involves incorporating as many integrity checks as possible into the academic publishing workflow.

Barry Prendergast, our Design Operations Manager here at Morressier, emphasized that the traditional processes of peer review no longer align with the needs of modern publishers. He explained: "We have technologies at our disposal, such as real-time authoring tools, inline commenting, change tracking, and highlighting, which can greatly simplify the process. These aren't groundbreaking ideas; they are proven technologies that exist in the world and can reduce the workload and alleviate mental burdens.”

When it comes to reviewer selection, Barry also highlighted a key challenge faced by publishers. It was eye-opening for his team to discover that the process of selecting reviewers can be so difficult and time consuming. “Managing reviewers can feel like herding cats,” Barry said, “from extending invitations to ensuring acceptance, signing agreements, and ultimately conducting reviews.” Our efforts are directed toward integrating data on reviewers' expertise, reliability, and their availability. 

Barry also underscored the importance of AI in this context. Using intelligent machines to build integrations that bring trusted information into the process is a key focus for us. These integrations make research easy to access, readily available, and digestible.



As we look beyond this year’s Peer Review Week, we need to continue to have conversations like these between academic stakeholders to better understand one another’s needs and build workflows that reflect that. 

The collaborative efforts of publishers and technology providers can steer academic publishing forward. 

If you’re interested in hearing more of the content we’ve talked about in this blog, be sure to listen to the full webinar. 

future peer review whitepaper

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