1. Brandon, Debra PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN
  2. McGrath, Jacqueline M. PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN

Article Content

Dear NANN Colleagues,


Over the past 2 years, the editorial board at Advances in Neonatal Care (ANC) with our recommendations as Co-Editors moved to implement changes in our manuscript peer review process. Some of our reviewers have written us about these changes, but we realized that other peer reviewers may not have noticed and authors may not be fully aware of the changes. Therefore, in this editorial, we highlight some of the current issues around scholarly peer review and the current peer review process used by ANC.



The use of peer reviewers is considered the "gold standard" in publishing to ensure that scholarly work is rigorous, accurate, and novel. In a recent issue of the Scholarly Kitchen, a blog sponsored by the Society for Scholarly Publishing,1 Melinda Baldwin, a physicist, was interviewed about her recent publication about the history of peer review.2 Dr Baldwin pointed out that while use of peers to review published work began in the mid-19th century with a few scholarly societies, widespread adoption of peer review publications did not occur until the 1970s. Peer review of manuscripts was widely adopted at the same time that research funding institutions like the National Institutes of Health were using peer reviewers to "judge" the credibility of grant applications. Peer review in journals was felt to be one way of justifying to funders the truthfulness and value of the grants they had funded.2 Widespread adoption of peer review in both research and clinical journal articles became common place by the 1980s.



When peer review was first initiated, both the reviewers (2-3) and author(s) knew the identity of the other individual(s) involved in the process. However, the Royal Society of London posited that reviewers would provide unfettered feedback if they were not named.2 Peer reviewers' identities were then blinded so that authors would not be aware of who provided feedback on their work. Subsequently reviewers were also blinded to the identity of authors. Blinding the identity of the author was thought to ensure independence and minimize bias in the recommendations an individual reviewer would provide to improve the manuscript.3 However, when reviewers are experts in their field, they often know and can recognize the work of their colleagues even when the author is not named. Therefore, the validity of a truly "blind" review is often called into question, especially when the community of scholars around a particular topic is relatively small.


Currently, there are a wide variety of accepted practices in peer review.3,4 Many journals continue to use a double-blinded review process where both the author and reviewers are not known to each other. However, single-blinded review has become the most common form of review.3 In single-blinded reviews the author is identified to the reviewer, but the reviewers are not known to the authors. Other journals like the British Medical Journal employ a totally transparent peer review process.5 Authors and reviewers are both aware of the identity of the other, and if the manuscript is accepted for publication, the original submission, the reviewers' comments, the authors response to the reviewers, and the final manuscript are all available online. This process is felt to provide not only transparency within the process but also accountability and credit to the reviewers for the time and effort they provide in the process of publication of scholarly works.6,7 Finally, hybrid models of peer review include one of the above processes along with postpublication commentary and discussion to critique the quality of the work. The value of the manuscript is believed to be revealed in the discourse and ongoing citation record based on the commentary and discussion. Thus, the discussion can add to the impact and value of the work. Research about the peer review process has not provided information about a clear advantage of one review process over another.3



Regardless of the process used for peer review, editors and authors alike must respect the time commitment involved in a thoughtful peer review. To support ANC reviewers, specific questions important to the journal are listed to facilitate the review. In addition, reviewers are provided continuing education credit for the time they take to complete the review. Finally, annually we recognize the ANC reviewers by publishing their names in ANC. Most recently ANC 's publisher, Wolters Kluwer (Lippincott) has designed a peer review training course available at the following Web site: We hope our current and future reviewers will check out the free course. For those who want to understand the peer review process even more thoroughly, there is a more comprehensive course available that does have a fee attached.



Currently, ANC uses single-blinded peer review. Our rationale for changing from double- to single-blinded review was twofold. First, in the neonatal nursing community, it is often difficult to fully blind a manuscript even with the authors' names and institutional affiliations not identified. In addition, the time from submission to peer review completion was often increased because manuscripts had to be sent back to authors for blinding of items they may have missed. Like double-blinded peer review, single-blinded reviewers are required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest that would preclude them from providing an unbiased peer review. Our peer reviewers are asked to complete the peer review within 2 weeks of accepting the assignment to shorten the time from the initial submission to author feedback. We also have recently changed our process and only send the manuscript to 2 peer reviewers to decrease the burden on our pool of ANC reviewers. See Figure 1 for a flowchart of the ANC review process.

Figure 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure 1. ANC peer review process flowchart.

Thank you to all of our peer reviewers for sharing their expertise and taking the time to provide thoughtful review to our authors. We hope that others will consider joining our peer review team. If you are interested in finding out more about peer reviewing for ANC please contact us.


Debra Brandon, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN


Co-Editor; Advances in Neonatal Care


[email protected]


Jacqueline M. McGrath, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN


Co-Editor; Advances in Neonatal Care


[email protected]




1. Harrington R. The rise of peer review: Melinda Baldwin on the history of refereeing at scientific journals and funding bodies. The Scholarly Kitchen: What's Hot and Cooking in Scholarly Publication. Published September 26, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2018. [Context Link]


2. Baldwin M. Scientific autonomy, public accountability, and the rise of "peer review" in the cold war. ISIS. 2018;109(3):538-558. [Context Link]


3. Lee CJ, Sugimoto CR, Zhang G, Cronin B. Bias in peer review. J Assoc Inf Sci Technol. 2013;64(1):2-17. [Context Link]


4. Ali PA, Watson R. Peer review and the publication process. Nurs Open. 2016;3(4):193-202. [Context Link]


5. Groves T. Quality and value: how can we get the best out of peer review? Nature. 2006. doi:10.1038/nature04995. [Context Link]


6. Edmunds EC: Peering into peer-review at GigaScience. Giga Sci. 2013;2:1-10. [Context Link]


7. Amsen E: What is open peer review? Accessed September 30, 2018. [Context Link]