Payment scheme for expedited review leads one editor of Scientific Reports to resign

Nature Publishing Group’s (NPG) journal Scientific Reports has introduced a trial for a fast-track peer review system, which authors can use if they pay an additional fee. The announcement has been met with widespread consternation from the scientific community, with one editorial board member resigning from the journal in protest.

In a letter to editorial board members, the journal states that as from 24 March a group of selected authors who submit biology papers to Scientific Reports will be able to fast-track their submission if they pay a fee of $750, Nature News reports. They will receive a decision within three weeks of submission, with the service being provided by Research Square – a third-party company specialising in ‘independent peer review’.

Following the announcement, scientists took to social media to express their concerns. Mark Maslin, a climatologist from University College London, UK, published a link to the aforementioned letter on Twitter and announced he had ‘resigned as an editor for Nature Scientific Reports as new system means authors can pay for quicker review by a private company’.

Maslin, although noting that the journal is ‘excellent’, is concerned the trial may pave the way for a ‘two-tiered system’. ‘Instead of the best science being published in a timely fashion it will further shift the balance to well-funded labs and groups,’ Maslin tells Chemistry World. He also expresses unease over the ethical issues such a system may raise: ‘If there is a paid fast-track system, does that mean reviewers will get paid and, if so, will this skew their reviews?’

It remains unclear if the system will be rolled out following a successful trial or whether other disciplines, such as chemistry and physics, will be included in future.