Aims: To explore the review process from the reviewers' perspective, including perceptions of the time taken to carry out a review, barriers to and facilitators of the review process, benefits of reviewing, opinions about blinded versus transparent reviews, how the process of reviewing might be made easier, and to assess reviewers' experience of, and training in, the peer review process.
Subjects: Reviewers for Medical Education invited to review over a 5-month period between 1st June and 31st October 2002 (n = 221).
Methods: Postal questionnaire accompanying a request to review a manuscript.
Results: The overall response rate was 64.7% (the response rate of those completing and returning a manuscript review and a questionnaire was 87%); 30% were first-time reviewers for Medical Education, although the majority (87%) reviewed for other journals. The average time spent on the current review was just over 3 hours (184.3 minutes, median 162 minutes, range 30-810 minutes), which was stated to be about the same time as usual for the majority. Only 14% of respondents had received formal training in reviewing, although 66% said they would like such training. A total of 79.5% said they would have liked to seek a colleague's opinion, and 90% wished to receive other reviewers' comments. A wide range of problems with the review process were encountered, and the main way in which it was felt it could be made easier was to make the process electronic. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they would be happy to sign their reviews. Acting as a reviewer was seen as a professional responsibility and as an opportunity for learning.
Conclusions: This study provides useful insights into the process of review from the reviewer's perspective. Reviewers spend a substantial amount of time on each paper. Many referees feel their reviews would benefit if they had formal training in the review process, received feedback on their reviews, or were able to ask colleagues for opinions on the paper being reviewed. Most reviewers would be willing to sign their reviews and feel that the process should be transparent. These results may help inform discussions about how to better prepare peer reviewers for their job.