Member Concerns Spur Changes to IEEE Peer-Review Process

After having to retract articles due to violations, IEEE recently announced an overhaul to its journal system. The changes are designed to maintain high quality and avoid anomalies in the peer-review process.

The technical association IEEE recently announced changes to its peer-review journal system, after finding several published articles didn’t meet the organization’s standards. The push for change was led by members, said Michael Forster, IEEE’s managing director for publications

“It is the nature of IEEE that all of these activities and processes are overseen and managed by our volunteer leadership,” Forster said. “This is not always the role at associations. Typically, professional staff often carry out those roles.”

IEEE retracted 30 articles that were published in IEEE Transactions on Electromagnetic Compatibility over a three-year period and 19 articles from the 2018 International Conference on Computing and Network Communications due to violations of its peer-review process policies.

To strengthen the process, IEEE’s Board of Directors tasked an ad hoc committee with examining IEEE’s peer-review policies, practices, and systems. Following an evaluation, the committee issued a number of key recommendations for improvement and new processes [PDF] for IEEE journals that fall into three categories:

  • Peer-review monitoring. IEEE will use metrics to monitor the peer-review process to ensure quality.
  • Policy updates. IEEE has revised several policies related to journal publications, including plagiarism detection and adjudication, detection of inappropriate citations, and detection of coercion of authors by editors or reviewers.
  • Deterrents and sanctions. The group is “developing an escalating system of sanctions that corresponds with severity of violation.”

Forster said the changes in procedures will not affect the user experience, except to strengthen the content. “We expect changes and improvements to include staff resourcing, and changes to our processes—additional investments in technology, data, and analysis,” he said. “Of course, there are things that we can’t tell you and make completely public, like the way we will detect potential misconduct. If you specify the means you apply to detect issues, you allow people to avoid detection.”

Since members were the driving force behind the changes, they have been well-received. “We ensure collectively that all of our processes are rooted in our community,” Forster said.

Hulya Kirkici, Ph.D, an IEEE fellow and vice president of publication services and products, agreed that the membership—which is 422,000 strong—has been key to these changes. “Every decision is driven by members,” Kirkici said. “The policies and procedures that we approved in November are really driven by volunteers. These are not just readers, they are contributors. Those ideas come from the grassroots up to the leadership.”

The leaders plan to watch the new publication process in the coming months to make sure it’s achieving its goals.

“One of the key tenants of IEEE is to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of the information that we publish,” Forster said. “And one of the things we will focus on most heavily is vigilance to ensure that that is the case, and continue to evolve our policies, to ensure that integrity and trust [are] in place.”

(Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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