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Perspectives on involvement in the peer-review process: surveys of patient and public reviewers at two journals
  1. Sara Schroter1,
  2. Amy Price1,2,
  3. Ella Flemyng3,
  4. Andrew Demaine4,
  5. Jim Elliot4,
  6. Rebecca R Harmston4,
  7. Tessa Richards1,
  8. Sophie Staniszewska5,6,
  9. Richard Stephens5
  1. 1 BMJ, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  3. 3 BMC part of Springer Nature, London, UK
  4. 4 Patient and Public Reviewer, UK
  5. 5 Research Involvement and Engagement, London, UK
  6. 6 Warwick Research in Nursing, Warwick Medical School, Coventry, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sara Schroter; sschroter{at}


Objective In 2014/2015, The BMJ and Research Involvement and Engagement (RIE) became the first journals to routinely include patients and the public in the peer review process of journal articles. This survey explores the perspectives and early experiences of these reviewers.

Design A cross-sectional survey.

Setting and participants Patient and public reviewers for The BMJ and RIE who have been invited to review.

Results The response rate was 69% (157/227) for those who had previously reviewed and 31% (67/217) for those who had not yet reviewed. Reviewers described being motivated to review by the opportunity to include the patient voice in the research process, influence the quality of the biomedical literature and ensure it meets the needs of patients. Of the 157 who had reviewed, 127 (81%) would recommend being a reviewer to other patients and carers. 144 (92%) thought more journals should adopt patient and public review. Few reviewers (16/224, 7%) reported concerns about doing open review. Annual acknowledgement on the journals’ websites was welcomed as was free access to journal information. Participants were keen to have access to more online resources and training to improve their reviewing skills. Suggestions on how to improve the reviewing experience included: allowing more time to review; better and more frequent communication; a more user-friendly process; improving guidance on how to review including videos; improving the matching of papers to reviewers’ experience; providing more varied sample reviews and brief feedback on the usefulness of reviews; developing a sense of community among reviewers; and publicising of the contribution that patient and public review brings.

Conclusions Patient and public reviewers shared practical ideas to improve the reviewing experience and these will be reviewed to enhance the guidance and support given to them.

  • peer review
  • patients, public, patient and public involvement

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  • Contributors AP and SS wrote the study protocol, interpreted the survey results and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. SS created the surveys on SurveyMonkey, administered the surveys to BMJ reviewers and analysed the pooled anonymised data. EF administered the surveys to Research Involvement and Engagement and project managed the wider study and collaboration. All authors helped develop the survey questions, commented on the results and helped write the paper for publication. All authors approved the final version of the paper for submission.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests SaS and TR are employed by The BMJ; AP is the patient editor (Research and Evaluation) at The BMJ; SoS and RS are the coeditors in chief of the Research Involvement and Engagement; AD and RRH are patient and public reviewers for The BMJ; JE is a patient research advocate and an editorial board member of Research Involvement and Engagement; EF is employed by BMC, part of Springer Nature, which publishes Research Involvement and Engagement. All authors support the call for greater public involvement in research.

  • Patient consent Not requried.

  • Ethics approval The research was reviewed by, and received ethics clearance through, the University of Oxford Central University Research Ethics Committee MS-IDREC-C1-2013-174.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data are available upon reasonable request.

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