Should we have had author consent for a randomised controlled trial of a peer review?
Case text (Anonymised)
A medical journal conducted a randomised controlled trial of papers submitted to it without getting consent from the authors concerned. An author found out and objected. Should the journal have sought consent from its authors?
Maybe this is taking matters too far and it is simply barmy to seek author consent. Should notice of this trial been given in advance and the authors been given the opportunity to opt out? Getting explicit consent from authors might have destroyed the validity of the study and introduced bias. It is common courtesy and best for the image of the journal to let authors know what is happening. Conclusion A notice should be added to the Instructions to Authors, to the effect that from time to time their papers may be used in trials of peer review and that this may slightly delay the processing time. In addition, the letter acknowledging receipt of the article might also contain notice (but with a light touch). In both cases, the authors can be given the opportunity to opt out.
The journal has now amended its guidance to authors to the effect that their paper may be included in research. Authors are also advised of this in the letter acknowledging receipt of a paper.