The state of the art in peer review

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Scholarly communication is in a perpetual state of disruption. Within this, peer review of research articles remains an essential part of the formal publication process, distinguishing it from virtually all other modes of communication. In the last several years, there has been an explosive wave of innovation in peer review research, platforms, discussions, tools, and services. This is largely coupled with the ongoing and parallel evolution of scholarly communication as it adapts to rapidly changing environments, within what is widely considered as the ‘open research’ or ‘open science’ movement. Here, we summarise the current ebb and flow around changes to peer review and consider its role in a modern digital research and communications infrastructure and suggest why uptake of new models of peer review appears to have been so low compared to what is often viewed as the ‘traditional’ method of peer review. Finally, we offer some insight into the potential futures of scholarly peer review and consider what impacts this might have on the broader scholarly research ecosystem. In particular, we focus on the key traits of certification and reputation, moderation and quality control, and engagement incentives, and discuss how these interact with socio-technical aspects of peer review and academic culture.

12 thoughts on “The state of the art in peer review

  1. Excellent work, Jonathan, I am trying to diffuse it with my contacts, but hardly anything moves in the fossilized world of academic publishing. My students are just looking for “academic credits” in the desperate research for a scientific career and I understand them. As for the elder gentlemen who dominate publishing (and I am sorry that I could be classified as one of them), no one really wants to rock the boat. And about publishers, augh…. At this point, I think only a good Seneca Collapse will save science from itself, getting rid of the accumulated inertia and allowing science to restart in a leaner form. (maybe you like to see what the Seneca Effect is, here: https://thesenecatrap.blogspot.com/

    Ah…. a comment about your paper. Very good, but you barely mention how the current system stifles innovation. Reviewers are a self-selected group whose purpose seems to be mainly to make sure that nothing that contrasts with their views goes through the filter. This is truly a disaster because it is becoming impossible to publish something really innovative. It is especially bad for young researchers who don’t have the kind of clout that allows them to bypass the gatekeepers.

    Just for fun, you may like to know something about the latest review of a paper of mine sent to a supposedly serious Elsevier journal. One of the reviewers insulted me accusing me of having occult monetary or personal gains in writing what I wrote. The other ended his review by saying that he didn’t want to impose his views on me and he wrote that after having told me exactly how I should have completely rewritten the paper in agreement with his personal ideas. And he concluded by saying that if I felt that he was imposing his views on me, of course I had the option of retiring the paper! How about standards in reviewing…. ?

    So is life. But something might be done, here, gathering some mass with other researchers interested in reforming the system . Maybe we should do something like that?

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