Peer review at Wellcome Open Research

Everything you need to know about the innovative Wellcome Open Research peer review model

Think you know peer review? Think again

Traditional closed peer review typically follows a single- or double-blinded process. This allows journal editors and reviewers to decide what research is published where and introduces the potential for bias.

At Wellcome Open Research, we do things differently.

We prioritise openness, transparency, and collaboration across the full publishing process, including peer review, offering a fully open post-publication peer review model.

Our innovative model puts transparency centre-stage, so that peer review becomes a constructive, collaborative conversation within the research community.

Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about peer review at Wellcome Open Research, including:

  • Challenges in existing peer review processes

  • How our model works and how it differs from traditional models

  • The role of authors in the peer review process

Interested in being a peer reviewer? Find out more about the peer review process and how to get involved.

What are the challenges in current peer review processes?

Amongst widespread changes in the scholarly publishing landscape, peer review has remained somewhat static, with very little change to peer review processes over the years. So, what are the issues?

Behind closed doors

Typical peer review models are single or double blind, where authors do not know who the reviewers are, or neither authors nor reviewers know the others’ identity. This approach can remove accountability for reviewers, encourage potential for bias, and reduce the capacity for learning from expert opinion among the wider academic community.

Led by editors

In traditional peer review, editors lead the peer review process, choosing not only whether research should progress to peer review, but also who should undertake peer review. This removes the ownership of research from authors, and undermines the ability of authors, as subject experts, to identify those best placed to review their work.

Lengthy delays

One of the most significant issues in current peer review models is the lengthy delay often faced by authors. With reviews taking many months, or sometimes years, to complete, it can result in findings becoming outdated before publication, especially in rapidly changing global health situations.

Focused on Research Articles

Research articles continue to form the backbone of scholarly publishing and are a key part of the scholarly record. However, there are many other valuable outputs that can be published, such as underlying data, methods, or case studies, and moves within open research to promote publication of these. Traditional peer review only applies to research articles.

Reserved for senior researchers

Acting as a peer reviewer is a valuable experience for all researchers, allowing you to develop lots of different skills. However, many journals reserve this only for the most senior or reputable researchers. Not only does this reduce the pool of potential reviewers, leading to review fatigue, but it also undermines the value of new and different voices, and limits experiences for early career researchers.

How does peer review at Wellcome Open Research differ?

Our peer review process is formal, invited, and fully open (meaning the reports are published alongside the article, along with reviewer names and affiliations).

Authors and our editorial team collaborate to identify reviewers, rather than editors solely leading the process.

Peer review takes place after the article has been published openly on the platform, so your research can start being read and used while expert reviewers assess it.

Reviewers are asked to assess the quality and validity of the research – so null and negative studies are welcome on Wellcome Open Research and won’t be reviewed any differently.

Peer review is applied to all article types, not just Research Articles, and we offer the chance for co-reviewing, where early career researchers can work alongside a more senior researcher to review an article.

What are the benefits of this peer review model?

Open and transparent

By making openness and transparency center stage, we reduce the possibility of bias by reviewers, as everything is open to all. This can also help to improve the quality of peer review, with studies finding that open reports tend to be more constructive. Open reports and open reader commenting also enables collaborative conversation and an opportunity for learning across the full research community, not just between authors and reviewers.

Reduce delays

By publishing research first and then conducting peer review, we balance faster publishing with maintaining research integrity. This can accelerate the pace of discovery, by allowing others to read and understand the latest findings when they matter most, while ensuring that published research is still robust and validated by experts.


We believe that nobody knows their research better than authors themselves. In most cases, authors are best placed to use their expertise in the field and specialist knowledge of the subject area to select the most appropriate reviewers for their work. However, this also needs to be balanced with potential conflicts of interest and possibilities for bias. As a result, a collaborative approach to peer review, where authors and editors work together to identify appropriate reviewers, helps achieve this balance.

Applied to all outputs

Wellcome Open Research publishes a range of article types, allowing researchers to publish their findings at every stage of the process and highlighting the value of other, less traditional research outputs. These article types (such as Method Articles, Software Tool Articles, and Data Notes) undergo the same open, post-publication peer review process as Research Articles, ensuring that readers can trust underlying work in the same way.

Ready to publish your research?

If you’re a Wellcome-funded researcher looking to make the most of this innovative peer review process, you can publish your work with Wellcome Open Research with no author facing fees.

5 steps to peer review on Wellcome Open Research

Step 1

After the article is accepted, authors need to suggest five possible reviewers. Our in-house editorial team will check your suggested reviewers and ensure they meet our criteria, and suggest any additional reviewers as needed. When all reviewers are identified and approved, the paper is published.

Step 2

Now that the article is live on the platform, our editorial team formally invite reviewers to provide their reports. To maintain integrity of the process, all communication with reviewers will come from our editorial staff.

Step 3

If reviewers decline the invitation or miss the deadline to submit reports, authors and editors will work together to suggest more names and repeat step 2.

Step 4

When reviewers submit their reports, they are checked by our editorial team to ensure they meet our reviewer Code of Conduct. Once this is confirmed, the reports are published openly alongside the article, along with reviewer names and affiliations.

Step 5

Once the article has received two Approved ratings, or one Approved and two Approved with reservations, the article passes peer review and is indexed in industry databases such as Scopus and PubMed. We strongly encourage authors to address feedback from reviewers by commenting on the peer review reports and publishing new versions of the article.

If the article does not obtain these approvals, authors can revise and resubmit a new version of the article and repeat the peer review process as needed.

What do approval statuses mean on Wellcome Open Research?


The article is of an appropriate academic standard. The analysis is accurately presented, and the conclusions are justified and supported by the content of the article. The reviewer may suggest small changes to improve the article or correct minor errors, but these changes will not affect the peer review status.

Approved with reservations

The reviewer believes the article has academic merit but has asked for several small changes to the article or more significant revisions. The reviewers have made it clear that the changes requested are necessary for an ‘Approved’ status to be awarded.

Not approved

The article in its current form has issues that seriously undermine the findings and conclusions. More serious revisions will be required for the paper to pass peer review.

It is important to note that a ‘Not Approved’ status does not equate to rejection. In fact, it is possible to improve an article’s status from ‘Not Approved’ to ‘Approved’ upon publication of a new version.

Navigating the peer review process

How to find peer reviewers

Our peer review process is a collaboration between the author and the Wellcome Open Research Editorial team. Before publication, authors must suggest at least five potential reviewers. If you struggle to find reviewers for your research, our Editorial team are there to support you.

But don’t worry – finding peer reviewers is easy with our top tips.

  • Use your knowledge of the field to identify possible reviewers at relevant institutions

  • Try the Reviewer Finder Tool provided by Wellcome Open Research to generate a list of potential reviewers

  • Look at your references – authors of cited papers could be well-placed to review for you

  • Explore academic databases like PubMed or Scopus for recent articles with relevant keywords

Diversity in peer review

It’s important to think about the diversity of your suggested peer reviewers. Are they from different institutions? Are they from different countries? Is there a good gender balance? If the five names you provide aren’t diverse enough, we might ask you for more suggestions of potential reviewers.

Responding to peer reviewers

While peer review is an integral part of the scholarly publishing process, it can be overwhelming for authors. Discover our top tips below.

Be thorough in responses

When revising and reviewing your paper following peer review, make sure to be thorough in your responses. Address each point in turn and provide a full response, including an explanation of any changes made to the paper in light of the comment. By providing detailed responses, you can build a relationship with both your reviewer and your readers, providing more transparency and boosting credibility of your work.

Feel empowered to say no

You do not always need to agree with your reviewers and should feel empowered to say no, where you feel appropriate. In these instances, you should provide a detailed response explaining why you disagree and use it as an opportunity to provide any further evidence or explanation that may support your response. Reviewers may have expertise in this area, but there are always opportunities for learning on each side.

Be prepared for multiple rounds of review

Finally, it’s important to be prepared for multiple rounds of review and revisions – don’t be disheartened by this, and instead see it as a learning opportunity to improve your knowledge and writing skills from experts in your field.

Ready to publish your research?

If you’re a Wellcome-funded researcher looking to make the most of this innovative peer review process, you can publish your work with Wellcome Open Research with no author facing fees.

Support with peer review and publishing

Our in-house team are here to ensure that all articles on Wellcome Open Research undergo the same rigorous process and that authors have all the support they need when publishing with the platform.

Want to know more about publishing with Wellcome Open Research? Read our FAQs to learn more about how the publishing process works, the scope of the platform, open access licences, article indexing, and more.

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