The topic for discussion at our March 2020 COPE Forum asked questions around the editing of reviewer comments.
Peer reviewers are asked to contribute intellectual work to assess and improve scholarly publications. As with all work, the quality and characteristics of peer reviews vary. Editors responsibilities include support not only to the peer reviewers who typically volunteer the time and knowledge but also to the authors, who reasonably should expect non-conflicted, thoughtful, unbiased, thorough reviews of the work in question and to not be subjected to hostile or personal attacks.
After the Forum discussion we shared an online questionnaire with members and non-members to gain more feedback on this topic. Survey results
Examples of possible problematic reviews or circumstances for which some editors might consider whether to edit or quash the review:
- "This author group clearly is lacking any fundamental knowledge of the topic."
- The reviewer recommends inclusion of their own work in the reference list without clear reasons.
- The editor encouraged the submission of the work and is eager to publish it, but one review is very negative.
- The review is replete with typographic errors.
- The review is a single line "This paper should be revised" or "This paper should be rejected".
- The reviewer accuses the authors of plagiarism or other misconduct within the body of the review.
- The reviewer's comments are very different from those of the other reviewers and it seems that the reviewer did not understand the paper.
Is it ever acceptable for an editor to change the content of a peer review or to quash it
If so, under what circumstances would this be acceptable?
If not, why not?
Read the Editing of reviewer comments pdf for a summary of the discussion.