Does Fast-Track Peer Review Help a Researcher?

Professionals in the scientific, medical, and academic communities must publish in order to achieve career success. Peer-reviewed journals are the typical way to share findings and advances with the larger community. However, the time between submitting an article and its subsequent publication can be long, delaying scientific and medical advances by months or even years. It also increases the chance that similar research by someone else will be published first, diminishing the significance of the research.

What is Fast Tracking?

Some journals have developed fast-track peer review options to curtail some of the unnecessary time that lapses between a manuscript being submitted and its publication. What is fast-track peer review? Fast-track peer review prioritizes a manuscript and decreases its publication time. Not every journal offers this option, and those that do have differing qualifications, and even definitions, for fast tracking. Some define fast tracking as just fast review, while others define it as fast publishing. When a paper is marked for fast track, it is often reviewed and a publication decision is made quickly. Fast tracking might also decrease the amount of time allocated for peer review and editing. It typically cuts the overall publication time by at least half.

How are Articles Selected for Fast Tracking?

The selection of articles depends on the journal. Some journals offer fast-track peer review for an additional fee, while others do it based on the perceived significance of the paper. Journals choose to fast track a paper for various reasons, typically due to a perceived exceptional clinical importance or significant impact to public policy. A journal may also choose to fast track a paper in order to publish the research before another journal publishes similar findings or before the information is presented at a conference.

What are the Effects of Fast-Track Review?

Many academicians and researchers are concerned about the effects of fast tracking—does it affect quality and rejection rates? There is a lack of sufficient evidence with regard to the precise effects of fast tracking articles. However, the limited studies into the consequences have found nothing adverse. It does not affect the quality of the information published in the journals. Fast-tracked papers are often more relevant and polished than others, especially when there is a fee involved. There is also no difference in the rejection rate, even when authors have opted to pay for fast track, and there is no preference shown for fast-tracked papers. The only difference these studies have found between a normal submission and one marked for fast track is the rate of time it takes from initial submission to publication.

Taking months or even years to publish vital work, especially in the fields of science and medicine, can slow down important findings. With the immediacy provided by modern technology, it is even easier to decrease the amount of time to publish a paper, especially if it is marked for fast track peer review. Finding ways to expedite the process so that the research can be shared could further enhance findings and advancements, greatly benefiting researchers.

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