This COPE discussion document provides guidance on the ownership of peer reviews and the potential issues that may arise around making reports publicly available. Key questions discussed in the document include who has ownership of peer review comments, who gets to determine whether a review can be made public, and if so, which parties would be required to consent to its publication. The document also covers whether sharing reviewer comments breaches the confidentiality or anonymity of peer review, even after publication, protocols for publishing the names of reviewer, and guidance for potential transfers of reviews of manuscripts that are rejected then submitted elsewhere.
- The movement towards greater transparency, accountability and recognition in peer review has led to questions around the ownership of review content.
- Under copyright law, most reviews would be considered to meet the requirements for an “original work of authorship”, and therefore, the reviewer holds copyright, unless they expressly transfer copyright by written agreement to the publisher.
- Concepts of “openness” in peer review should not be confused with a “lack of confidentiality”.
- Any confidentiality assured during the review process should be maintained, upheld and protected even after publication, unless expressly permitted by relevant parties.
- Authors must be consulted about publication of all pre-accepted works, as they may not wish to see details of earlier versions of their paper revealed via peer review reports.
COPE welcomes feedback from publishers, journal editors, reviewers, researchers, institutions, librarians, funders, and other stakeholders on this subject. Add your feedback below.
About this resource
Written by COPE Council
Version 1 September 2017
How to cite this COPE Council. COPE Discussion Document: Who 'owns' peer reviews? September 2017. https://doi.org/10.24318/rouP8ld4
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3 February 2022
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