Most research journals employ the conventional approach to peer review. This involves evaluation of an article by one or more among a panel of recognized experts in the field who are nominated by the editorial board of the journal. While this method has worked quite well over the years, alternative strategies have been or are being explored. The basic goal is to determine whether and how improvements can be implemented in the traditional methods of peer review. Some of the new approaches are described below.
Pre-submission peer review
This has been an integral part of the publication process in the form of feedback obtained by the principal author from co-authors or known experts in the field. This process has also been formalized in certain subject areas by setting up customized pre-print repositories like arXiv. Recently, professional pre-submission peer review services have also been introduced which offer researchers the opportunity to improve on the papers prior to submission.
Commentary following publication
Readers are allowed to post their comments or thoughts about the article online along with the paper. This process obviously has to be moderated to weed out unsuitable comments. Publishers like BioMed Central and the British Medical Journal invite post-publication comments.
Online peer review
Among others, the journal Nature has experimented with this system. The procedure worked in parallel with external peer review, with the manuscripts being placed on an open website, where individuals who identified themselves could comment on the paper. All comments were taken into account by the editorial board in reaching a decision regarding publication.
Interactive review and discussions
In this method (adopted by the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics), manuscripts are pre-screened by the editorial board before posting online, where anonymous reviewers, other individuals and also authors can put up their comments and responses during a specified period. Following this, revision of the manuscript based on the comments follows.
Mix of pre- and post-publication review
A combination of pre- and post-publication review has been adopted by PLoS One. The first stage involves evaluation of the article by members of the editorial board. Following publication, readers can post their comments in different forms: annotations, ratings or debates.
A more detailed discussion about the various approaches described above can be found in the in-depth analysis of peer review by Irene Hames. While these methodologies have met with different degrees of success, and have been implemented to varying extents, conventional post-submission (or pre-publication) peer review remains by far the predominant mode employed by most journals.