What is Peer Review and Why is it Important?
What is peer review?
Peer review is a process where a research paper or other empirical work submitted to academic journals or conferences is reviewed by experts, or “peers,” in the field. Peer review is the main way through which research papers get disseminated for a wider audience.
Why is peer review important?
Peer review is important because it helps to ensure that articles meet the standards of quality and rigor required by the field. It also ensures that the work has been conducted using sound research methods. This helps “filter out” bad articles or misleading research papers from getting published.
Additionally, peer review can identify weaknesses or issues in the submitted manuscript. This is important because it will improve the quality of your article, making it more robust.
Peer review is also important because it teaches key skills needed in academia such as critical thinking and writing. By getting feedback from other researchers, you can learn how to give, consider, and respond to feedback from other researchers. You also learn more about the developments in your field and stay up to date on the literature.
Types of peer review
There are several different types of peer review. Generally, peer review may be editorial (in-house) or external with invited reviewers, who may be previous authors of that journal. The most common types are outlined below.
- Single-blind review: In this type of review, the reviewers know who the submitting author is, but the authors don’t know the identity of the reviewers. This type of review aims at reducing the risks of bias.
- Double-blind review: In this review, neither the authors nor the reviewers know each other’s identity. This is considered the gold standard in peer review because it minimizes the risk of bias from both sides.
- Open review: The opposite of a double-blind review, open review is where both the authors and reviewers know each other’s identities. Here, the review process is conducted openly and transparently. This makes it accessible for readers, which puts more responsibility on the authors since errors are visible to all.
In most cases, articles are reviewed prior to publication to identify any weaknesses or errors prior to dissemination. However, the increase of pre-print submissions has given rise to a post-publication model. In this type of review, the work is evaluated after getting published in pre-print databases. This is because the peer review process can be time-consuming when authors want to get public feedback on their work as soon as possible.
The type of peer review articles undergo depends on the journal you submit to. Some databases provide you with details on journals’ peer-review models. For example, searching for journals on Jouroscope® allows you check quickly and easily which type of peer review process each journal applies.
The peer review process and outcomes
In all types of peer-review the first step is Initial Screening. During this stage a member of the editorial staff takes a first look at the article and determine if it should be sent out for peer review. At this stage, the article can also be rejected directly for not being in the scope of the journal or for not applying journal’s guidelines. Sometimes, corrections or resubmission is required before sending the paper out for peer-review.
If it is sent for peer review, the editor will assign several reviewers who are in the same area as the topic of the paper. Usually, two peer reviewers are needed for peer review.
During the peer review stage, the reviewers will carefully read, evaluate, and critique the submission. They will assess the article for logical flow, soundness of methods, rigor of analyses, novelty of the contribution, and validity of the conclusions. Factors like clarity of writing and readability also come into play.
Typically, reviewers have a time limit of 2-8 weeks to review the paper. Then, they provide detailed feedback on the manuscript back to the editor, including areas for improvement.
They also recommend whether the article should be: accepted, meaning published in the journal; rejected, meaning not eligible for publication in that journal; or accepted with minor or major revisions. Once the editor receives the reviewers’ feedback, the assigned editor or sometimes the editor-in-chief, make the final decision whether to accept or reject the article based on the reviewer’s comments and the quality of the article.
At this point, the editor can request revisions. This means that the article is sent back to the authors with some changes to make.
The editor can request major or minor revisions depending on reviewer comments and his assessment. Minor revisions imply that the article needs several changes to make it quality for publication, whereas major revisions are more substantial changes.
If the article is accepted pending revision, the article is sent back to the authors with the comments from reviewers. The authors then have a specified amount of time to implement the revisions requested by the reviewers in their paper. The amount of time authors have to implement the changes varies depending on the journal. Once the authors make all the requested changes, the article is sent back to the journal and the editor again decides whether to accept, reject, or request more revisions.
Sometimes, each article undergoes several rounds of revisions before the final decision is made. On average, 1-2 rounds of revisions occur, but it is also not unheard of to have more than 4 rounds of revisions.
Peer review is an essential part of academic publishing where articles undergo critique and assessment by experts in the scientific community. Although peer-review cannot be always free from bias, it generally guarantees the reliability and accuracy of scientific communication for the betterment of society.