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The benefits of co-review

From the Editors-in-Chief of PLOS Climate, PLOS Sustainability & Transformation, and PLOS Water

Have you heard of co-review? Even if you don’t know it by that name, or haven’t thought of it as a distinct ‘mode’ of peer review, the chances are you’ll have engaged with it either as a contributor or a recipient! When we talk of co-review, we’re referring to the scenario in which a reviewer invites a colleague, usually (but not exclusively) more junior and with less experience of the peer review process, to collaborate with them on completing an evaluation of the manuscript. We’re shining a spotlight on co-review here because we believe it can bring a range of benefits for everyone involved when managed according to formalised policies that guarantee credit for co-reviewers. 

Co-review provides an invaluable ‘hands-on’ opportunity for early-career researchers (ECRs) to gain experience and skills, through engaging with manuscripts, journal publication criteria and policies, as well as learning from their peer review mentor. This is particularly useful where ECRs require review experience as part of their career pathway, yet may not have had sufficient time or space to engage in review tasks.  At the same time, co-review expands and diversifies the pool of reviewers, bringing new perspectives and expertise to bear on the review process, and breathing new life into a system that can place too heavy a burden on too narrow a slice of the research community. Further, it can diversify the geographic origin of reviewers; with important benefits in terms of a range of perspectives.  The reviewer reports produced through a co-review partnership can also end up being more thorough, insightful, and balanced thanks to the exchange of knowledge and viewpoints.

Given these substantial benefits, all PLOS journals warmly encourage more experienced reviewers to consider asking ECR colleagues to participate as co-reviewers, and for ECRs to put themselves forwards in this capacity. Of course, it is vital that co-reviewers receive appropriate credit for their contributions to the review process; many already fulfil the role of an informal co-reviewer without receiving this credit. That’s why we require that co-reviewers’ names be shared with the journal when the review is submitted. Co-reviewers can optionally sign reviews, and their contributions to the review process will then be made publicly available if the author chooses to have the article’s peer review history to be published.

Learn more about peer review on PLOS’s environmental journals, and how to declare co-review, in the following reviewer guidelines:

PLOS Climate:

PLOS Sustainability & Transformation:

PLOS Water:

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