Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reviewing peer review (and its flaws)

Peer review is viewed as the arbiter of good science.  In fact, passing peer review is typically a prerequisite for professional advancement -- a scientific paper will not be published unless it is judged worthy of publication by one or more peers, and likewise a grant will not be awarded unless a group of scientific peers judge a proposal to be of sufficiently high quality.  I would argue that, because so many means of professional advancement are conditional on satisfying reviewers, satisfying reviewers is one of the most important tasks that a career scientist faces.

Because of its importance to career scientists, scientists have plenty of opinions about peer review.  However, peer review is not often taken as an object of scientific study.  My goal in this post, then, is to conduct a short review peer review.  I will structure my discussion around the following three questions, after which I will give some concluding thoughts:
  1. What are the goals of peer review?
  2. What are the costs of peer review?  Who bears these costs?
  3. What are benefits of peer review?  Who reaps these benefits?