Commentary

Peer-Review Transparency


 

References

Federal health care providers live under a microscope, so it seems only fair that we at Fed Pract honor that reality and open ourselves up to scrutiny as well.1 We hope that by shedding light on our peer-review process and manuscript acceptance rate, we will not only highlight our accomplishments, but identify areas for improvement.

Free access to Fed Pract content has always been our priority. While many journals charge authors or readers, Fed Pract has been and will remain free for readers and authors.2 Advertising enables the journal to support this free model of publishing, but we take care to ensure that advertisements do not influence content in any way. Our advertising policy can be found at www.mdedge.com/fedprac/page/advertising.

In January 2019, Fed Pract placed > 400 peer-reviewed articles published since January 2015 in the PubMed Central (PMC) database (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc). The full text of these and all future Fed Pract peer-reviewed articles will be available at PMC (no registration required), and the citations also will be included in PubMed. We hope that this process will make it even easier for anyone to access our authors’ works.

In 2018 about 36,000 federal health care providers (HCPs) received hard copies of this journal. The print journal is free, but circulation is limited to HCPs who work at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), US Department of Defense (DoD), and the US Public Health Service (PHS). The mdedge.com/fedprac website, which includes every article published since 2003, had 1.4 million page views in 2018. After reading 3 online articles, readers in the US are asked to complete a simple registration form to help us better customize the reader experience. In some cases, international readers may be asked to pay for access to articles online; however, any VA, DoD, or PHS officer stationed overseas can contact the editorial staff (fedprac@mdedge.com) to ensure that they can access the articles for free.

In 2018 the journal received 164 manuscripts and published 94 articles written by 357 different federal HCPs. The 164 manuscript submissions represented a 45% growth over previous years. Not surprisingly, the increased rate of submissions began shortly after the May 2018 announcement that journal articles would be included in PMC. Most of those articles (83%) were submitted unsolicited.

Fed Pract has always prided itself on being an early promoter of interdisciplinary health care professional publications. Nearly half of its listed authors were physicians (48%), while pharmacists made up the next largest cohort (18%). There were smaller numbers of PhDs, nurses, social workers, and physical therapists. The majority were written by HCPs affiliated with the VA (95% of articles and 93% of authors), and no articles in 2018 were written by PHS officers. Physicians comprise about two-thirds of the audience, while pharmacists make up 17% and nurses 9%. PHS and DoD HCPs make up 19% of the Fed Pract audience, suggesting that the journal needs to do more work to encourage these HCPs to contribute articles to the journal.3

Articles published in 2018 covered a broad range of topics from “Anesthesia Care Practice Models in the VHA” and “Army Behavioral Health System” to “Vitreous Hemorrhage in the Setting of a Vascular Loop” and “A Workforce Assessment of VA Home-Based Primary Care Pharmacists.” Categorizing the articles is a challenge. Few health care topics fit neatly into a single topic or specialty. This is especially true in federal health care where much of the care is delivered by multidisciplinary patient-centered medical homes or patient aligned care teams. Nevertheless, a few broad outlines can be discerned. Articles were roughly split between primary care and hospital-based and/or specialty care topics; one-quarter of the articles were case studies or case series articles, and about 20% were editorials or opinion columns. Nineteen articles dealt explicitly with chronic conditions, and 10 articles focused on mental health care.

Peer reviewers are an essential part of the process. Reviewers are blinded to the identityof the authors, ensuring fairness and reducing potential conflicts of interest. We are extremely grateful to each and every reviewer for the time and energy they contribute to the journal. Peer reviewers do not get nearly enough recognition for their important work. In 2018 Fed Pract invited 1,205 reviewers for 164 manuscript submissions and 94 manuscript revisions. More than 200 different reviewers submitted 487 reviews with a median (SD) of 2 reviews (1.8) and a range of 1 to 10. The top 20 reviewers completed 134 reviews with a median (SD) of 6 reviews (1.2). The results stand in contrast to some journals that must offer many invitations per review and depend on a small number of reviewers.1,4-6

The reviewers recommended to reject 14% and to revise 26% of the articles, which is a much lower rejection rate than many other journals (Table).4

Eighty-six authors completed 1 revision, 17 authors completed 2 revisions, and 1 author completed 3 revisions. It took the journal, on average, 58 days to submit the first decision to authors. For authors with revised manuscripts it took even longer: 75 days for the decision on the first revision and 100 days for a decision on the second revision. Often articles are approved about 1 month before publication.

These data suggest that Fed Pract and its peer-review process is on a sound foundation but needs to make improvements. Moving into 2019, the journal expects that an increasing number of submissions will require a higher rejection rate. Moreover, we will need to do a better job reaching out to underrepresented portions of our audience. To decrease the time to publication for accepted manuscripts, in 2019 we will publish more articles online ahead of the print publication as we strive to improve the experience for authors, reviewers, readers, and the entire Fed Pract audience.

None of this work can be done without our small and dedicated staff. I would like to thank Managing Editor Joyce Brody who sent out each and every one of those reviewer invitations, Deputy Editor Robert Fee, who manages the special issues, Web Editor Teraya Smith, who runs our entire digital operation, and of course, Editor in Chief Cynthia Geppert, who oversees it all. Finally, it is important that you let us know how we are doing and whether we are meeting your needs. Visit mdedge.com/fedprac to take the readership survey or reach out to me at rpaul@mdedge.com.

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