Journals On Topic

The Controversial Nature of Peer Review

The very first journal to be peer-reviewed was published in 1731 by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Still, the use of external reviewers wasn’t fully adopted until after World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, scientific research became more specialized, and real estate in scholarly journals became more competitive. To help sort through content, publishers set up the peer-review system.

At its best, peer review is meant for quality control and intended to ensure only the highest level of scholarly research is published.

But the COVID-19 pandemic shook up the entire system. Peer review intrinsically slows down the publication process, leading to a bottleneck in the sharing of information. With the onset of the pandemic, time was of the essence, and scientists needed to work together to find a vaccine as soon as possible.

Thus, scientists started posting and sharing preliminary findings of their research. This helped everyone stay up to date, hastened breakthroughs, and allowed scientists to create the vaccine more quickly than expected — but it also opened opportunities for unintentionally unsubstantiated claims to be taken by the public as verified fact.

Scientists working together to solve the global health crisis exposed just how siloed the industry is — and how much red tape there is when it comes to sharing information. But sometimes speed is of the essence.

There is a movement across the industry to make information more readily accessible, in both its cost and time-to-publish. Enter the open-access journal, in which scientists can post articles without peer review and readers can access content without a costly subscription.

Of course, this development has pros and cons. Among the obvious benefits is how more accessible and timely information allows the scientific community the chance for richer discourse, more efficient sharing of ideas and results, and (hopefully) quicker development of solutions. But it also exposes the community to an onslaught of potentially faulty and unreliable information.

There is no easy answer. Peer review is a vitally important system that helps protect the scientific community and the public from sloppy research and inaccurate findings. On the other hand, it also promotes the segregation of ideas, slowing down the problem-solving process.

Yes, peer review needs to be revamped and reconsidered, as many in the publishing industry are calling for. But the benefit of the system as it stands today — along with the quality of research and ideas it protects — is still crucial for a thriving, scholarly discourse.

Contact your Sheridan or KGL representative for a consultation or visit our contact pages (Sheridan contact page / KGL contact page) to learn how we can help streamline and simplify your publishing processes.

Proven Content