Context.— Many journals provide peer reviewers with written instructions regarding
review criteria, such as the originality of results, but little research has
been done to investigate ways to improve or facilitate the peer review task.
Objective.— To assess the value that peer reviewers place on receipt of supplemental
materials (eg, abstracts of related papers and preprints of related unpublished
Design.— Questionnaire survey sent to all 733 peer reviewers recruited by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute to review 356
manuscripts consecutively sent out for review from February 24, 1997, through
January 16, 1998. The inclusion of supplemental materials with manuscript
review packages was optional.
Main Outcome Measure.— The peer reviewers' assessment of the actual or potential usefulness
of supplemental materials on the performance of peer review.
Results.— A total of 481 (66%) of 733 questionnaires were returned. Of the 471
respondents' questionnaires that could be used, 217 (46%) indicated that they
received abstracts, and 44 (10%) of 458 respondents indicated that they received
preprints. Higher proportions of peer reviewers who received supplemental
materials than those who had not received them felt that they were (or would
be) useful to them when reviewing the manuscript (63% [95% confidence interval
(CI), 57%-69%] vs 45% [95% CI, 38%-52%]; P<.001)
and to the peer review process in general (80% [95% CI, 75%-85%] vs 64% [95%
CI, 58%-70%]; P<.001).
Conclusion.— The majority of respondents indicated that supplemental materials helped
(or would have helped) them evaluate manuscripts and valued them more highly
when they actually received them.