This COPE discussion document introduces issues and guidance around the ownership of peer reviews. Questions discussed 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 the sharing of reviewer comments breaches the confidentiality or anonymity of peer review, protocols for publishing the names of reviewers, 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.
Pete Binfield, Publisher and co-Founder of PeerJ, and Elizabeth Moylan, Senior Editor BioMed Central, discuss "Who owns peer reviews?" in this 2017 podcast.
- Editing peer reviews guidelines
- Editing of reviewer comments Forum discussion, March 2020
- Editing of reviewer comments survey, June 2020
COPE welcomes feedback to this ongoing debate from publishers, journal editors, reviewers, researchers, institutions, librarians, funders, and other stakeholders.
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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Added link to Version 1: https://publicationethics.org/files/u7140/Who_Owns_Peer_Reviews_Discussion_Document_Web.pdf