ESR 30:11-18 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00721

AS WE SEE IT
The need for speed in a crisis discipline: perspectives on peer-review duration and implications for conservation science

Steven J. Cooke1,2,*, Vivian M. Nguyen1, Alexander D. M. Wilson1,2,3, Michael R. Donaldson1, Austin J. Gallagher1,4, Neil Hammerschlag4,5, Neal R. Haddaway6

1Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Dr., Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
2Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation and Environmental Management, Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
3School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia
4Shark Research and Conservation Program, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
5Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, University of Miami, 1365 Memorial Drive, Miami, FL 33146, USA
6Mistra Council for Evidence-based Environmental Management, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 104 05 Stockholm, Sweden
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Scholarly peer review relies on rigorous yet fair assessments of articles by qualified referees in a timely manner. We considered the extent to which a prolonged peer-review process can delay the dissemination of results in a conservation context by combining insight from a survey with our own perspectives. A survey of authors who published peer-reviewed articles in biodiversity and conservation in 2012 and 2013 yielded 461 responses from participants in 119 countries. Approximately 44% of respondents thought that slow review times might hamper conservation, while only ~5% provided specific examples of how slow reviews had actually impeded conservation actions or policy formation. When queried about the value of expediting the review process for studies of high policy or conservation relevance, ca. 1/3 of respondents thought it was a worthwhile idea in principle, though mechanics of implementing such practices are unclear. Author self-identification of potentially important papers could lead to requesting a rapid review provided that a paper meets certain criteria—an approach already used by some generalist journals. Given the urgency of many conservation-oriented initiatives, we encourage the entire editorial team (staff, editors, referees, authors) to make a concerted effort towards improving the speed of the peer-review process while maintaining quality. Such efforts would reflect the notion that timeliness is a key component of scientific relevance to practitioners and policy makers in a crisis discipline. We conclude that there is a ‘need for speed’ and advocate that rapid, rigorous and thorough peer review can be accomplished and can provide collective benefits to the scientific community and global biodiversity.


KEY WORDS: Peer review · Conservation · Scientific publishing · Biodiversity · Science communication · Science dissemination · Journal editor · Referee


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Cite this article as: Cooke SJ, Nguyen VM, Wilson ADM, Donaldson MR, Gallagher AJ, Hammerschlag N, Haddaway NR (2016) The need for speed in a crisis discipline: perspectives on peer-review duration and implications for conservation science. Endang Species Res 30:11-18. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00721

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