Objectives: Peer-review publication is a critical step to the translation and dissemination of research results into clinical practice guidelines, health technology assessment (HTA) and payment policies, and clinical care. The objective of this study was to examine current views of journal editors regarding: (i) The value of real-world evidence (RWE) and how it compares with other types of studies; (ii) Education and/or resources journal editors provide to their peer reviewers or perceive as needed for authors, reviewers, and editors related to RWE.
Methods: Journal editors’ views on the value of RWE and editorial procedures for RWE manuscripts were obtained through telephone interviews, a survey, and in-person, roundtable discussion.
Results: In total, seventy-nine journals were approached, resulting in fifteen telephone interviews, seventeen survey responses and eight roundtable participants. RWE was considered valuable by all interviewed editors (n = 15). Characteristics of high-quality RWE manuscripts included: novelty/relevance, rigorous methodology, and alignment of data to research question. Editors experience challenges finding peer reviewers; however, these challenges persist across all study designs. Journals generally do not provide guidance, assistance, or training for reviewers, including for RWE studies. Health policy/health services research (HSR) editors were more likely than specialty or general medicine editors to participate in this study, potentially indicating that HSR researchers are more comfortable/interested in RWE.
Conclusions: Editors report favorable views of RWE studies provided studies examine important questions and are methodologically rigorous. Improving peer-review processes across all study designs, has the potential to improve the evidence base for decision making, including HTA.