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Why peer review is so important

As part of Peer Review Week 2016, running from 19-25 September 2016, we are celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality. We asked some of our journal’s editorial teams to tell us why peer review is so important to them and their journals. Why do you think peer review is so important? Comment at the end of the article and share your thoughts.

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“Around 90% of microbiologists see peer review as improving scientific knowledge and as a contribution to the scientific community.”

Dr Catherine Cotton is the CEO Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) on whose behalf Oxford University Press publish five journals.

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“I regard it as a duty and privilege to be asked to be a peer reviewer of my fellow scientists’ work so consider it essential to clearly indicate any major concerns I may have then follow this with a list of minor points to help the author improve the paper so that the end result is a concise clear and credible piece of work which adds to the existing body of knowledge.”

Dr J Peter Donnelly is the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and works for the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

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“As a researcher I have come to expect the sometimes harsh feedback that peer review entails. However, as an associate editor, my appreciation for scientific critique has evolved. To create a well-crafted commentary on a submitted manuscript is a true skill, and when done well, satisfying to read. Obtaining high quality peer review is core to research publication: journals rely upon the dedication of the academic community.”

Dr James Galloway is a clinical lecturer at King’s College London, an honorary consultant in rheumatology at King’s College Hospital and an Associate Editor of Rheumatology.

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“Peer reviews that are conducted by timely, reliable individuals are indispensable for an editor to judge whether a manuscript submitted is worthwhile to publish in a journal or not.”

Dr Katsumi Isono is Prof.-emeritus of Kobe University and the Executive Editor of DNA Research.

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“The role of academic journals as I see it is to bring the most important discoveries to the attention of other researchers and interested readers, and to frame these advances in an appropriate scientific, clinical, cultural or historical context. Inevitably, in order to select among competing claims for attention, we have to take into account the opinions of experts who may be closer to the actual topic of the submitted work. In my opinion, anonymous peer review is the worst way of evaluating the importance, novelty and veracity of manuscripts, apart from every other method that has been tried. The role of reviewers, however, is not to dictate but to advise, and with relatively rare exceptions, I think they do a good job. I will therefore continue to rely on this system for the journal that I edit.”

Professor Dimitri M. Kullmann is a Consultant Neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, a Professor of Neurology at the UCL Institute of Neurology, and the Editor of Brain.

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“Peer review underpins the academic publication process, but has been much criticised. It is one of the main methods by which journals try to maintain quality control over the material that is published… Journals such as Oxford Medical Case Reports (OMCR) are dependent on our peer reviewers and are grateful to them of the time that they give up.”

Dr Richard Watts is the Editor-in-Chief Oxford Medical Case Reports, as well as a Consultant Rheumatologist at Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust and Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia.

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“Peer review is one of the most critical means by which journal editors safeguard the integrity of the scientific literature. Calling attention to details as seemingly minor as misplaced punctuation to those as grave as plagiarism and data fabrication, careful peer reviewers improve manuscripts in countless ways. The editors of Nutrition Reviews encourage all reviewers to approach the task of reviewing with as much care as they would hope a reviewer of their own work would provide. Feedback that is substantive, constructive, polite, and well considered is essential for the process to work effectively and is deeply appreciated.”

Allison Worden is the Managing Editor of Nutrition Reviews.

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Featured image credit: Correcting Papers, by Quinntheislander. CCO Public Domain via Pixabay.

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