Why do peer reviewers decline to review manuscripts? A study of reviewer invitation responses
- Michael Willis
- Learned Publishing
Background: There is increasing need for peer reviewers as the scientific literature grows. Formal education in biostatistics and research methodology during residency training is lacking. In this pilot study, we addressed these issues by evaluating a novel method of teaching residents about biostatistics and research methodology using peer review of standardized manuscripts. We hypothesized that mentored peer review would improve resident knowledge and perception of these concepts more than non-mentored peer review, while improving review quality. Methods: A partially blinded, randomized, controlled multi-center study was performed. Seventy-eight neurology residents from nine US neurology programs were randomized to receive mentoring from a local faculty member or not. Within a year, residents reviewed a baseline manuscript and four subsequent manuscripts, all with introduced errors designed to teach fundamental review concepts. In the mentored group, mentors discussed completed reviews with residents. Primary outcome measure was change in knowledge score between preand post-tests, measuring epidemiology and biostatistics knowledge. Secondary outcome measures included level of confidence in the use and interpretation of statistical concepts before and after intervention, and RQI score for baseline and final manuscripts. Results: Sixty-four residents (82%) completed initial review with gradual decline in completion on subsequent reviews. Change in primary outcome, the difference between preand post-test knowledge scores, did not differ between mentored (−8.5%) and non-mentored (−13.9%) residents (p = 0.48). Significant differences in secondary outcomes (using 5-point Likert scale, 5 = strongly agree) included mentored residents reporting enhanced understanding of research methodology (3.69 vs 2.61; p = 0.001), understanding of manuscripts (3.73 vs 2.87; p = 0.006), and application of study results to clinical practice (3.65 vs 2.78; p = 0.005) compared to non-mentored residents. There was no difference between groups in level of interest in peer review (3.00 vs 3.09; p = 0.72) or the quality of manuscript review assessed by the Review Quality Instrument (RQI) (3.25 vs 3.06; p = 0.50). (Continued on next page) * Correspondence: email@example.com Department of Neurology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR, USA The Queens Medical Center Neuroscience Institute, 1301 Punchbowl St., QET5, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA Full list of author information is available at the end of the article © The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated. Wong et al. Research Integrity and Peer Review (2017) 2:6 Page 2 of 9 (Continued from previous page) Conclusions: We used mentored peer review of standardized manuscripts to teach biostatistics and research methodology and introduce the peer review process to residents. Though knowledge level did not change, mentored residents had enhanced perception in their abilities to understand research methodology and manuscripts and apply study results to clinical practice.