Identification of Motivations for Peer Reviewers to Perform Prepublication Review of Manuscripts: A Systematic Review

Mersiha Mahmić-Kaknjo,1 Mario Malički,2 Ana Utrobičić,3 Dario Sambunjak,4 Ana Marušić2


To identify and synthesize studies regarding motivation for prepublication peer review of manuscripts.


A Systematic review of studies indexed in MEDLINE, Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus was carried out. Literature search was performed in February, 2016 with no language or time limitations. A total of 3585 records remained after deduplication. Initial screening of titles and abstracts was conducted by 2 independent reviewers. For all records without indexed abstracts, full text was obtained. Bibliographies of selected studies are still to be examined to identify additional relevant studies. Qualitative studies were assessed using the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) and surveys by using the Good Practice in the Conduct and Reporting of Survey Research Checklist.


Of 3585 records, 315 were related to peer review, but only 14 explored motivations for prepublication peer review of manuscripts, of which 4 were agent-based models (simulations) dealing with peer review incentives, 4 were qualitative studies of reviewers or editors (total 94 participants), 3 were surveys (total 2308 respondents, participation rates 62%, 63%, and not listed), and 3 were theoretical papers on new indices or incentives that would improve the motivation of reviewers and quality of their reviews. Both surveys and qualitative studies reported the following most common incentives to peer review: contribute to the community/scientific field, reciprocity, keep up to date on current research, improve manuscript quality, acquire new skills and experience, and career advancement. The most common disincentives were: lack of time, poor quality of manuscript or journals, and lack of formal recognition of performed work.


Studies on motivation for performing peer review are rare. Most reported incentives for conducting reviews were contributing to the community and keeping up to date with new studies, with lack of time being the most common reason for refusing to review. After checking bibliographies of selected studies for additional studies we will attempt a synthesis of the results.

1Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Cantonal Hospital, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina; mmahmickaknjo@gmail.com; 2Cochrane Croatia and Department of Research in Biomedicine and Health, University of Split, School of Medicine, Split, Croatia; 3Cochrane Croatia and Central Medical Library, University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia; 4Catholic University of Croatia, Department of Nursing, Center for Evidence-Based Medicine and Health Care, Zagreb, Croatia

Conflict of Interest Disclosures:

Dr Marušić is a Peer Review Congress Advisory Board Member but was not involved in the review or decision for this abstract. No other conflicts were reported.


This research was funded by COST Action TD1306 New frontiers of peer review (PEERE).

Role of the Funder/Sponsor:

The funder had no role in the design, execution, interpretation, or writing up of the study.