Ethical Peer review

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How do we ethically involve Early Career Researchers in peer review?

The Problem

Peer review is viewed as central to the evaluation of research. However, in talking to early career researchers, we often came across anecdotes of peer review “ghostwriting”: that is, trainees carrying out peer review of a manuscript, writing the report, and submitting it to a supervisor, who submits the report (or some version of it) under their own name, and without the name of the co-reviewer. This led us to ask: just how often does this “ghostwriting” occur? Why does it happen? Is it unique to the life sciences? What can we do to ensure the recognition of scholarly work by ECRs?


Our goals

The aim of this project is to increase transparency around peer review, particularly the practice of co-reviewing, to make sure that future generations are left with a sustainable system for rigorous and recognized peer review, for the benefit of researchers, science, and faith in the peer review process.



We carried out a literature review and a survey of researchers with an emphasis on co-reviewing and ghostwriting. Most respondents believed co-reviewing to be a beneficial and ethical form of training in peer review. About half of the respondents had ghostwritten a peer review report, despite 81% responding that ghostwriting is unethical and 82% agreeing that identifying co-reviewers to the journal is valuable.


Article and prospective

Based on our survey responses, we developed recommendations for ensuring the inclusion, training, and recognition of ECRs’ scholarship in manuscript peer review. This includes a flow chart of how to perform ethical co-review.