Every year, Peer Review Week honors the contributions of scientists, academics, and researchers in all fields for the hours of work they put into peer reviewing manuscripts to ensure quality work is published. This year, the theme of Peer Review Week is “The Future of Peer Review.”
But what actually is peer review?
According to Oxford Languages, peer review is “the evaluation of scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field.” In practice, this means manuscripts submitted to academic journals must go through a strict review from peers in the field to check the validity and novelty of the research. Additionally, this process aids the editor of the journal in determining if the manuscript is fit to publish in the journal with little or no revisions, or if it requires major edits.
Peer review goes back to the beginning of research sharing, with the concept of peer review evident in ancient Greece. Modern peer review as we know it today is thought to have originated in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries with the introduction of the first academic journals, though it has transformed massively with the increase in scientific papers published and the advent of the internet.
Historically, editors would invite close colleagues to review, which limited inclusivity in the process. Additionally, familiarity with the authors of manuscripts could sway peer reviewers to review in a favorable or unfavorable light due to unconscious bias.
On today’s episode, we are excited to welcome three of our colleagues at Oxford University Press to discuss current changes they see in the field, and what they will mean for the future of publishing.
First, we welcomed Laura Jose, a Publisher in the Owned and Product Tower at OUP, to share how peer review reduces bias. We then interviewed Dr Amanda Boehm, scientific managing editor for JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute and JNCI Cancer Spectrum, about diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives in peer review. Lastly, we spoke with James Phillpotts, the Director of Content Transformation & Standards, who serves as an OUP representative for the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). We discussed NISO’s recently released document on Standard Terminology for Peer Review.
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This article from the December 2002 Cardiovascular Research, “The significance of the peer review process against the background of bias: priority ratings of reviewers and editors and the prediction of citation, the role of geographical bias” by Tobias Opthof, Ruben Coronel, and Michiel J. Janse offers a look at peer review from the not so distant past.
A more recent scholarly look at peer review, “Can transparency undermine peer review? A simulation model of scientist behavior under open peer review” by Federico Bianchi and Flaminio Squazzoni could be found in the October 2022 Science and Public Policy (Open Access)
From the blog, we have this collection by R. Michael Alvarez of evergreen editor tips on how to be a good peer reviewer.
We’ve also collected external documents that were mentioned or referenced by our guests:
- “AI can crack double blind peer review – should we still use it?” by Leonard Bauersfeld, Angel Romero, Manasi Muglikar, and Davide Scaramuzza on the LSE Impact Blog
- “Double-anonymous peer review reduces reviewer bias, finds three-year trial” from the British Ecological Society
- “Nobel and novice: Author prominence affects peer review” by Jürgen Huber, Sabiou Inoua, Rudolf Kerschbamer, Christian König-Kersting, Stefan Palan, and Vernon L. Smith in PNAS (Open Access)
- “Which peer reviewers voluntarily reveal their identity to authors? Insights into the consequences of open-identities peer review” by Charles W. Fox in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
- Committee on Public Ethics (COPE) Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers, March 2013
- As mentioned by James Phillpotts, NISO’s recent guidelines on Standard Terminology for Peer Review, published July 2023
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