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One of the things that I think is particularly notable about the Physical Review journals (and other journals published by the American Physical Society and/or American Institute of Physics) is that they do not ask that referees keep the papers they are reviewing confidential. In fact, they encourage senior physicists to involve junior colleagues in the reviewing process. In fact, the pages in their refereeing system have a prominent notice:

If you are an experienced senior reviewer, we encourage you to ask a less-experienced junior colleague to co-review the paper.

I assume that it is not unique to physics that people have been informally asking colleagues for their opinions about paper. I was asked, circa 2005, by my post-doc advisor about a paper he told me he was refereeing for Physical Review D. It was a notable paper in our field, and I had read the arXiv version carefully when it came out. In theoretical particle physics, almost all papers are available on the arXiv well before publication, and this is true to somewhat lesser extents in other areas of physics, mathematics, and other sciences; so confidentiality is less of an issue that it might be elsewhere, as priority for innovations may be established by the dates at which preprints are published.

However, it seemed surprising to me when the Physical Review journals started explicitly asking senior referees to share the papers they have been sent with junior collaborators. Are there any other respected journals that have this policy—of trusting experienced referees to invite colleagues to join the reviewing process?

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  • The questions in the title and in the last sentence are not quite the same. For example, IOP has a co-review policy in which experienced referees are encouraged to invite junior colleagues to co-review, but this invitation should go through IOP, maintaining a sense of confidentiality. Would that qualify for an answer?
    – Anyon
    Jan 3 at 10:00
  • @Anyon Sure, that would be a useful answer. I honestly have no idea what the policies are for this in general. It's just a weird thing that I have noticed. And I haven't refereed for IOP for several years, so I'm not so familiar with what they do.
    – Buzz
    Jan 4 at 3:55

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American Geophysical Union (AGU) journals have a co-review program that seems comparable to APS's, at least if I read this Journal of Geophysical Research—Earth Surface editorial correctly:

Co-reviewing allows a reviewer to include and recognize early-career co-reviewers who contribute comments on a manuscript. The journal's online manuscript review portal has a space for listing co-reviewers as a review is completed. Co-reviewing involves sharing the manuscript with one or two early-career scientists but not a large group, for confidentiality reasons.

The general AGU journal policy does not provide a similar level of detail, so I suppose it's possible different journals could have different implementations.


Then there are also journals that encourage a referee to invite colleagues to co-review, but formalize how this is done, in contrast to the more laissez-faire approach of APS. In doing so, they maintain a more strict sense of confidentiality (or at least the appearance thereof, depending on the degree to which the policy is adhered to).

Institute of Physics (IOP) extended their co-reviewing policy across all their journals as recently as June 2023. (It appears that the policy was originally introduced in 2020 and trialed on Nano Express, Journal of Optics, and Journal of Physics D.) The goal of the policy is the same as in the question:

Co-review allows two people to collaborate on a reviewer report, with both receiving recognition. We offer co-review in the hope that early career researchers with limited experience of peer review can work together with more experienced colleagues or supervisors to build their peer review competency.

However, IOP's process is somewhat more formalized, in the sense that the invitation to the junior collaborator should go through them:

If you are invited to review and wish to co-review with a colleague, select the ‘Co-review with a colleague’ link in the journal’s invitation email. You will be asked for the name and contact details of the person you will be co-reviewing with. Your co-reviewer will be invited to review the manuscript if we still require reviewers. If they accept the invitation you can work on the review together. The completed reviewer report form should be submitted to the journal through the co-reviewer’s ScholarOne account.

Flowchart for co-review on IOP-owned journals


It appears that the Nature Reviews journals (e.g., Nature Reviews Physics, but not Nature Physics) have a similar initiative. I don't know any of the details beyond the stated policy:

Supporting early-career researchers The Nature Reviews journals are committed to facilitating training in peer review and to ensuring that everyone involved in our peer-review process is appropriately recognised. We have therefore started an initiative to encourage established referees to involve an early-career researcher (ECR) in our peer review process on all Nature Reviews journals. The review that they compile together will be considered a co-review, meaning that both receive recognition for their contributions. We will send instructions to the early-career researcher and ensure that their referee activity is logged on our systems so that they are recognised for their review activity.

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