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Abstract

Whereas in traditional peer review a few selected researchers (peers) are included in the manuscript review process, public peer review includes both invited reviewers (who write ‘reviewer comments’) and interested members of the scientific community who write comments (‘short comments’). Available to us for this investigation are 390 reviewer comments and short comments assessing 119 manuscripts submitted to the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). We conducted a content analysis of these comments to determine differences in the main thematic areas considered by the scientists in their assessment comments. The results of the analysis show that in contrast to interested members of the scientific community, reviewers focus mainly on (1) the formal qualities of a manuscript, such as writing style, (2) the conclusions drawn in a manuscript, and (3) the future “gain” that could result from publication of a manuscript. All in all, it appears that ‘reviewer comments’ better than ‘short comments’ by interested members of the scientific community support the two main functions of peer review: selection and improvement of what is published.

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Abstract  

Using the data of a comprehensive evaluation study on the peer review process of Angewandte Chemie International Edition (AC-IE), we examined in this study the way in which referees’ comments differ on manuscripts rejected at AC-IE and later published in either a low-impact journal (Tetrahedron Letters, n = 54) or a high-impact journal (Journal of the American Chemical Society, n = 42). For this purpose, a content analysis was performed of comments which led to the rejection of the manuscripts at AC-IE. For the content analysis, a classification scheme with thematic areas developed by Bornmann et al. (<cite>2008</cite>) was used. As the results of the analysis demonstrate, a large number of negative comments from referees in the areas “Relevance of contribution” and “Design/Conception” are clear signs that a manuscript rejected at AC-IE will not be published later in a high-impact journal. The number of negative statements in the areas “Writing/Presentation,” “Discussion of results,” “Method/Statistics,” and “Reference to the literature and documentation,” on the other hand, had no statistically significant influence on the probability that a rejected manuscript would later be published in a low- or high-impact journal. The results of this study have various implications for authors, journal editors and referees.

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