Journal Peer Review Process: An Overview
14 Sep 2017
Articles and manuscripts written by researchers and academicians are published in journals which are available in the public domain. This adds responsibility on the authors, editors and reviewers to follow the highest standards of publication processes. Peer review process is an important aspect, can be even said pivotal in scientific publications, and reviewers help in evaluating the results for competence, significance and originality. Although, dictionary defines ‘peer’ as one of equal standing, ‘peer review’ in the context of journals happen by very experienced professionals or experts in the respective fields/domains, which helps in validating the research and also in improving the quality of the article.
Nearly three and half centuries ago in 1600s, when a collection of scientific essays by Denis de Sallo was being submitted in the journal ‘des Scavans’, the aim was to disseminate the findings without any thought of peer review or to check for accuracy or authenticity of the report. The first instance of a peer review occurred later in 1731, when the Royal Society of Edinburg published a collection of articles, which the editor got reviewed from people whom he considered as experts in the field. But the Royal Society of Edinburg provided a disclaimer that peer review did not ensure authenticity or accuracy. Peer review evolved very gradually with some journals getting the submitted content reviewed internally. Finally in 1893, the British Medical Journal got each noneditorial article reviewed by a well-known expert.
Peer review process became more organized and standardized in the last century as scientific research increased and many new journals came into existence. In the initial days, there were very few research manuscripts submissions, hence, the editors, especially from the new journals, had to look for the content to fill their journals without the luxury of being selective. But with the exponential increase in scientific research because of the increased acceptance of evidence based medicine, the editors had to be very selective in choosing the papers they wanted to publish in their journals. Also, with science and technology advancing by leaps and bounds, many specialties have emerged requiring expertise to understand the sophisticated research; however, many editors may not have the capabilities or depth in the subject. Hence, peer review process involving experts in respective specialties or domains is essential for publications in journals.
Currently, the peer review process is followed by almost all journals. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) defines peer review as: “peer review is the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted to journals by experts who are not part of the editorial staff.” The peer review process follows after the initial review by the editors to see if the paper first fits into the scope of the journal and their guidelines as defined in their editorial policy. The paper is then circulated to experts, usually to more than one, in their respective specialties for peer review. Peer review process helps to bring in the context of the research; the methods adopted, and tries to ensure that the research has been done in a fair, authentic, ethical and as accurate as possible.