A Survey of Chinese Medical Researchers' Awareness and Use of Author-Suggested Reviewers

Limin Chen,1 Xiuyuan Hao,2 Yuanyuan Ji,1 Yalin Bao1

Objective The increase in medical manuscript submissions in China has burdened editors of general medical journals with finding specialist peer reviewers. Author-suggested reviewers might be a choice for editors. However, this practice might create problems that can compromise the integrity and impartiality of the peer review process. This survey investigated the perceptions of Chinese authors regarding the authors-suggested reviewers for their work.

Design We distributed a questionnaire by email in January 2017 to 583 corresponding authors who had published manuscripts in the Chinese Medical Journal in 2015 and 2016. The questionnaire contained 4 questions in Chinese: (1) Did you know that authors might suggest the peer reviewers for their work? (2) Have you ever suggested the peer reviewers for your work when you submitted your manuscript? (3) Did you know that cheating or fraud may be committed by authors when identifying author-suggested reviewers? (4) Have you ever manipulated the reviewer(s) you suggested when you were submitting a paper as an author? The survey also included open-ended questions or space for respondents to comment and ask questions.

Results We received 325 (55.7%) valid responses. A total of 317 respondents (97.5%) reported knowing that authors could suggest reviewers. However, only 122 (37.5%) confirmed that they had suggested the reviewers for the manuscript they submitted. Among the respondents, 73 (22.5%) admitted knowing that the use of author-suggested reviewers could be a means for cheating or committing fraud. Two respondents (0.6%) confessed to having faked the peer reviewer’s email or suggesting their own names as reviewers, 5 (1.5%) refused to answer the fourth question. The participants also raised questions, such as the following: As suggesting reviewers is time-consuming for authors, could this step be skipped at the submission stage? Why do editors fail to identify the truthfulness and reliability of author-suggested reviewers? Why are instructions for suggested peer reviewers not provided by journals?

Conclusions Most of the Chinese authors in this survey were aware they may suggest reviewers, but only one-third had actually done so. The author-suggested reviewer process remains useful, and editors should respect authors’ rights to suggest peer reviewers. However, the process of suggesting reviewers needs to be fine-tuned. Detailed instructions for suggesting peer reviewers should be stated on journals’ websites.

1Chinese Medical Journal, Chinese Medical Association, Beijing, China, chenlimin@cma.org.cn; 2Chronic Disease and Translational Medicine, Chinese Medical Association, Beijing, China

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

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