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Gatherings of an Infovore*: Reviewing Peer Review

Abstract

Peer review is the cornerstone of quality assurance within the scholarly publishing process. To have no peer review would result in letting loose on the world treatises from honest and self-serving researchers alike. Faulty methodologies, inaccurate calculations, fraudalent data, outright plagiarism, and excessive hyperbole would go unchecked. However from its beginnings, which can be traced back over 350 years, we have yet to devise anything more perfect. We still grapple with whether it is useful and can be performed in a nonbiased and valid manner. Yes, peer review is an imperfect system, but like democracy, it’s the least bad system we’ve got. Peer review is meant to not merely separate wheat and chaff but to focus attention on ideas beneficial for the development of a line of inquiry. Scholarly research depends on the circulation of new approaches to sustain advancement in not just traditional areas of study but in the ever-increasing number of interdisciplinary fields. The challenges to the current peer review system’s ability to achieve either the promise of accuracy or of fairness have only become more, rather than less, frequent. There are signs of progress being made to improve the quality of peer review. Prior to the adoption of appeals processes, authors had little recourse to challenge biased reviews whether generated by inexperienced or less-than-competent reviewers or based on conflicts of interest from competitors or “the old guard.” Improvements such as the education and training of reviewers, the application and continuous development of software programs, and new approaches […]

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