CIE Spotlight: The need for speed in a crisis discipline: perspectives on peer-review duration and implications for conservation science

Alex W.
Alex W.

Authors: Cooke, Steven J.; Nguyen, Vivian M.; Wilson, Alexander D. M.; Donaldson, Michael R.; Gallagher, Austin J.; Hammerschlag, Neil; Haddaway, Neal R.


Brief summary of the paper: Scholarly peer review relies on rigorous yet fair assessments of articles by qualified referees in a timely manner. We considered the extent to which a prolonged peer-review process can delay the dissemination of results in a conservation context by combining insight from a survey with our own perspectives.

A survey of authors who published peer-reviewed articles in biodiversity and conservation in 2012 and 2013 yielded 461 responses from participants in 119 countries. Approximately 44% of respondents thought that slow review times might hamper conservation, while only ~5% provided specific examples of how slow reviews had actually impeded conservation actions or policy formation.

When queried about the value of expediting the review process for studies of high policy or conservation relevance, ca. 1/3 of respondents thought it was a worthwhile idea in principle, though mechanics of implementing such practices are unclear.

Author self-identification of potentially important papers could lead to requesting a rapid review provided that a paper meets certain criteria—an approach already used by some generalist journals. Given the urgency of many conservation-oriented initiatives, we encourage the entire editorial team (staff, editors, referees, authors) to make a concerted effort towards improving the speed of the peer-review process while maintaining quality. Such efforts would reflect the notion that timeliness is a key component of scientific relevance to practitioners and policy makers in a crisis discipline.

We conclude that there is a ‘need for speed’ and advocate that rapid, rigorous and thorough peer review can be accomplished and can provide collective benefits to the scientific community and global biodiversity.