Pros and Cons of Peer Review
08 Nov 2017
Peer review process, considered as the ‘gold standard’ of academic achievement, provides a trusted form of scientific communication, and helps in improving the quality of published papers. Peer-reviewed research meet the standards of science, however, it isn’t necessarily correct or conclusive. An inefficient peer-review process owing to reviewer’s bias, conflict of interest (COI), inability to detect major flaws, or scientific misconduct, and unnecessary delays in publication, may impose an unwanted flaw of compromised research. However, the notion of peer-review should not be abandoned altogether, as the publication of articles of low standard and value cannot be allowed. In a survey conducted by Ware and colleagues, peer review process was supported by an over-whelming 93% of researchers who agreed upon its necessity. Of these, a large majority (85%) agreed that peer review greatly helps scientific communication and believed that without this process there would be no control. Considering the aforementioned, the pros and cons of peer review process needs to be discussed and evaluated. The current article highlights the advantages and disadvantages of the peer review process in scientific publications.
- Research work is validated through experts
- Improvement in the quality of publications – through constructive feedback mechanism
- Publication of most important research in journals – enables journal editors to select articles based upon the objective and independent reviews of an expert group
- Peer review process is well understood and accepted by majority of researchers
- Time consuming process – may cause delays in the dissemination of research findings
- Effectiveness of the peer review process is debatable in detecting errors in academic papers
- Anonymity of referees is difficult in specialized research fields – very few experts available
- Publication of poor research may not be prevented – review standards may be lower in less prestigious journals
- Reviewer’s bias:
- COI: Reviewers may support the findings of their own interest and oppose publication of competing ideas
- Attitude: Unconventional ideas are not easily accepted; force editors to add their own references
- Status: Influence of reputed institutions and scientists on reviewer’s recommendations
- Unable to uncover scientific misconduct: plagiarism, duplicate publication, fabrication of results, falsification or adjustment of data, violation of ethical standards
- Delay in the publication process: deliberate delay in decision making
- Unable to detect major flaws: examples include –
- Fraud at the bell laboratory (1998-2002)
- Fraud in stem cell research conducted by Korean researcher in 2005 was detected when retested by other scientists
- Inadequacy to detect weakness in the manuscript
- A study showed that surprisingly only 2 mistakes were detected by the 200 reviewers in a manuscript with 8 deliberated weaknesses
- Kyriazis M. Limitations of the peer review system and possible alternatives. J Mol Biochem. 2013; 2:1-2.
- Smith R. Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals. J R Soc Med. 2006; 99:178-182.
- Challenges of peer review. Accessed online at: http://teachingcommons.cdl.edu/cdip/facultyresearch/Challengesofpeerreview.htmlon November 9, 2016.
- The publication process. Accessed online at: http://www.gcu.ac.uk/library/pilot/publication/peerreview/advantagesanddisadvantages/on November 9, 2016.