It's time for Peer Review Week 2018

The annual Peer Review Week is launched second week in September. For the fourth year in a row the week is paying attention to the importance of peer review as a vital part of the scientific publishing process.

Many will argue that the peer review done by research colleagues is a prerequisite for the reliability and quality of published research.

The theme will be emphasized by activities and texts in many places and in different media. A series of events, including open webinars, are listed on the website peerreviewweek.org. If you want to spread the word, you can use the hashtag #PeerReviewWeek18.

In connection with this year's Peer Review Week, Publons has published a report that analyzes data on peer review activities in scientific research, based in part on surveys of nearly 11,000 researchers worldwide. The report is well worth reading in its entirety to gain perspective on the different variants of peer review available, who perform peer review and how to assess the quality of peer review. Here are some interesting facts from the report:

  • 68.5 million hours - so much time devoted to peer review worldwide over a year.
  • 19.1 days - so long it takes on average for a researcher to review an article.
  • The more prestigious a magazine is, the longer the review reports, and articles are reviewed faster the more prestige magazine has.
  • Researchers from emerging research regions (eg China, Brazil, Indian and Iran) are underrepresented in the peer review process, while researchers from established regions (such as the United States, Great Britain and Japan) account for a very large proportion.

Although most stakeholders (e.g. authors, reviewers, editors, journals) in the scientific publishing world would agree on the power and importance of the peer review, there are criticisms of the system. There are several examples of where the peer reviews neither were impartial nor insightful, resulting in important research findings to be counteracted or ignored. (1)

Another concern is that the involvement from individual researchers in the peer review process is neither credited nor rewarded in any significant way. An initiative to change that is Publons, a free website where researchers can register and showcase their peer review work. According to Publons, more than 450,000 researchers have joined the network, an increase of about 265,000 since last year. 

The critical importance of the peer review has also been updated in connection with the increase of unserious publishers and magazines, so-called predatory publishing. Common to these predatory publishers is that they do not provide is a rigorous and reliable review process (although they often say they do). The driving force behind these publishers is rather to access the author's publishing fees. (2)

Cartoon by Nick D Kim, scienceandink.com. Used by permission. 

  1. Smith R. Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2006;99(4):178-82.
     
  2. Bohannon J. Who's afraid of peer review? Science (New York, NY). 2013;342(6154):60-5.

Henrik Schmidt

Librarian engaged in research support in various forms. Teaches doctoral students and researchers in areas related to literature search, publishing strategies and publication analysis.