It’s been widely suggested that one solution to the increasing difficulty of obtaining peer reviews is sharing of reviews among journals. If a ms is rejected by one journal, the ms (appropriately revised if necessary) and the reviews can be forwarded to another journal, which can make a decision without the need for further reviews. That’s the idea behind peer review cascades, such as how many Wiley EEB journals will offer to forward rejected mss and the associated reviews to Ecology & Evolution. It was also the idea behind the (late, lamented) independent editorial board Axios Review.
And it’s the idea behind a practice some folks were talking about on Twitter a little while back: authors themselves forwarding the reviews their rejected ms received to a new journal along with the revised ms.
Below the fold: a poll asking if you’ve ever done this, and then some comments from Meghan, Brian, and I. Answer the poll before you read the comments.
I’ve never done this as an author, and during my several years as an Oikos editor no author ever did this for an ms I handled. So I think it’s really rare (but perhaps the poll will prove me wrong!)
I doubt it helps your chances, and I highly doubt that it will prevent your ms from being sent out for additional review, except perhaps at non-selective journals like Plos One. Most editors, especially those at selective journals, want to know who the reviews came from. That’s important contextual information that they use to interpret the reviews. Is the review from a specialist on the species studied in the ms, the theoretician who wrote the model the ms tests, somebody who’s critical of the approach the ms uses, etc.
Editors also want to be sure that authors didn’t selectively omit reviews or portions of reviews. The vast majority of authors are honest and would never do this–but a small minority would.
Editors at selective journals also want reviews that address whether the ms is a good fit for their journal. Reviews from another journal can’t address that. Different journals have different audiences.
Back when Ecology Letters was first founded, they allowed authors to forward reviews their ms had previously received, but they stopped doing so. Which is telling, I think. (UPDATE: please see the comments, where EcoLetts senior editors Jon Chase and Tim Coulson write to inform us that although EcoLetts stopped saying on their website that they will consider reviews from other journals, and that the post correctly identifies the main issues with considering previous reviews, EcoLetts still does occasionally receive and consider mss with previous reviews attached.)
Also telling is that editors at selective journals generally did not treat reviews from Axios Review on a par with their own reviews. Even though editors knew the identity of the Axios Review editor who’d chosen the Axios reviewers, knew the identity of the Axios reviewers, knew that Axios was forwarding the entirety of every review, and had comments from the Axios reviewers and editor addressing the fit of the ms to the journal. To me, this illustrates that, for as much as editors like to complain about how it’s getting harder to get reviews these days (which it is!), they’re not so worried about the problem as to want pre-reviewed mss. And if editors at selective journals didn’t put that much weight on Axios reviews, they’d surely put zero or near-zero weight on reviews forwarded by the authors themselves.
I’m not sure if there are copyright issues with authors forwarding reviews their ms has received to another journal.
I think any journal that’s prepared to consider reviews forwarded by the authors should have a policy on their website. I don’t think it’s fair to consider reviews forwarded by authors on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis.
I’ve also never done this. When I was a grad student, I remember thinking it was interesting when I heard that Ecology Letters allowed this sort of thing. The idea was that, if you had a paper reviewed at Nature or Science but then rejected, you could send those reviews and your responses along to Ecology Letters with responses to reviewers. When I saw some papers with very short times between submission and acceptance, I assumed that must be the case. But then I spoke with someone who was an AE at Ecology Letters at a meeting, and they said it never worked when people submitted the reviews from Nature or Science, for the reasons Jeremy said: they were never sure if they could trust that a really key concern hadn’t been deleted, and they always felt like they needed to be sure they were getting the opinions of people who they respected. So, they still got new reviews of the paper, so the net effect of submitting your paper along with the reviews from a previous journal was that you were submitting extra criticisms of your paper along with the paper. (By the way, the answer to why some papers were appearing with very short times between submission and acceptance is the same as it is now: journals reject papers that don’t actually require very substantial revisions as a way of trying to reduce their time to final decision).
I was surprised by the twitter discussion of this where it sounded like some people do this somewhat regularly, so I will also be interested in seeing the poll results!
I’ve done this exactly once as an author (out of about 80 publications). It was after a paper had been through rejections at several high profile journals and I sent it to a fairly low impact journal. It worked that time. But the EiC of that journal is a bit of an iconoclast and I’d heard of somebody else doing at this specific journal, so I wouldn’t generalize from it much.
As an Editor-in-Chief of a journal who has now seen more than 1000 papers come in, I have never seen it done. I expect if it ever happened it would have a similar effect to reviews coming from Axios – i.e. it might affect the decision whether to send out to review (either positively or negatively), but it would not replace the normal review process. But as Jeremy noted it would be less so than Axios because the reviewers would be unknown, the assessments of fit would be for a completely different journal, etc. And unlike Axios, doing this unasked for just might rub a non-trivial fraction of the editors the wrong way. In short, I wouldn’t recommend it.