Payment trial for expedited reviews ends in wake of editorial board resignations

Nature Publishing Group’s (NPG) journal Scientific Reports has ended a trial that allowed authors to pay for fast-track peer reviews after just one month. The experiment had been met with harsh criticism from a number of the journal’s editorial board members, with several resigning in protest.

On 24 March, Scientific Reports sent a letter to board members stating that a small group of selected authors who submitted biology papers would be eligible for a fast-track submission if they paid $750. The service was provided by a third-party company called Research Square.

Following the announcement, an editorial board member, Mark Maslin, publically resigned, and 28 board members sent an open letter to the journal stating their concerns. As a result of NPG’s response to this letter, two further editorial board members resigned, including Anxo Sánchez, a mathematician from Charles III University of Madrid, Spain. ‘They didn’t answer anything,’ he tells Chemistry World. He explains that the journal failed to clarify their stance on a number of issues including the possibility of a two-tier system or a peer review market.

Another group of board members adopted a different approach to Sánchez by publishing an online petition on 8 April. The letter stated that signatories would tender their resignation unless the trial was put to end, as ‘there was no consultation whatsoever with the handling editors regarding this new initiative’. To date, it has been signed by over 120 editorial board members and 500 supporting researchers.

Announcing the end of the trial, NPG claimed the experiment was developed to ‘tackle some of the issues [they] see in peer review’. They also state that they will be working more closely with their editorial board in the future.