Implementation of transparent peer review at Journal of Spine Surgery (JSS)

Published: 2020-06-01

Editorial office, Journal of Spine Surgery

With a commitment to openness and accountability, and to increase the level of transparency throughout our peer review process, our editorial office has decided to implement a transparent peer review process as an option for all manuscripts submitted to JSS from June 1, 2020.

The new practice will see the inclusion of the “peer review file” (a record of reviewer reports and author replies) in the footnote of the corresponding article. The reviewer’s identity will still be kept confidential. For an example, please refer to the practice trial article published with the permission of the authors and related reviewers (1). Another example was published in Communications Biology and contained the Peer Review File (link online) in the Supplementary information section (2).

When a manuscript is submitted, authors will be asked (via the submission system) whether they agree to the publication of the peer review file along with the accepted version should their article be accepted after the peer review process. The author’s choice will not affect any subsequent editorial decisions.

Our decision is based on long-term observations and experience in the academic arena and we feel it is an imperative and landmark move which will improve and polish our current peer review process in accordance with our full open access policy. We are not the first to introduce this practice; it has been successfully applied for some time by other internationally esteemed journals, such as Nature communications (3) and Communications Biology (published by Springer Nature) (4).


1. While the published peer review files will focus on reviewer comments and the corresponding author responses, they will only contain a manuscript’s peer review history at JSS. If a manuscript is submitted to us after review at another journal, those referee reports and author rebuttal letters will remain confidential, as they were submitted without prior consent for publication.

2. Correspondence between authors and editors, reviewer comments only to the editors, and internal discussions between editors will remain confidential to ensure editorial independence is maintained.

3. By accepting the review task, reviewers will agree to the anonymous publication of their comments. Reviewers will be notified of this in the reviewer invitation.

By disclosing the journal’s peer review process, we aim to publicize the information on which the editorial office bases its decisions to publish papers. Reviewer reports can also provide a background on the merits of a study, and document the discussion between authors and our reviewers. We also hope to acknowledge the work of our reviewers, as their assessments will now reach a much larger audience.

We would like to thank all the related experts for the support they do and will provide to our editorial office in its efforts to improve the editorial publishing process.


1. Kakinuma R, Muramatsu Y, Asamura H, Watanabe SI, Kusumoto M, Tsuchida T, Kaneko M, Tsuta K, Maeshima AM, Ishii G, Nagai K, Yamaji T, Matsuda T, Moriyama N. Low-dose CT lung cancer screening in never-smokers and smokers: results of an eight-year observational study. Transl Lung Cancer Res 2020;9(1):10-22. doi: 10.21037/tlcr.2020.01.13.

2. Venit, T., Semesta, K., Farrukh, S. et al. Nuclear myosin 1 activates p21 gene transcription in response to DNA damage through a chromatin-based mechanism. Commun Biol 3, 115 (2020).

3. Transparent peer review one year on. Nat Commun 7, 13626 (2016).

4. Transparent peer review and open data at Communications Biology. Commun Biol 2, 239 (2019),