What is scholarly peer review, and why is it important?
Have you ever wondered how research papers get published?
Every discipline has journals dedicated to publishing new research done within that field. From natural sciences to mathematics, there are journals for every subject possible. There are journals for even specific subdisciplines of a subject. For example, within biology journals, you will find a host of journals about biochemistry, cell biology and biotechnology.
With over 30, 000 journals across the world and over 2 million articles being published each year, there is a lot of academic research that is generated each year! But how does the academic community know which ones of those are legitimate? If it is becoming increasingly easier to get published, how do they know which work is groundbreaking?
Which ones of those are well researched and ‘scientific’?
Enter: the peer-review process.
You might have heard your professors mention the phrase ‘peer review’ when they are talking about scholarly work. But what does this mean, exactly? Let’s find out.
Peer review is a process in which a researcher’s work is critically evaluated by experts from the researcher’s field before it is published in a journal or a conference proceeding. This means that articles published in peer-reviewed journals are those vetted and verified as relevant research for the advancement of the subject.
Peer reviewers help editors of journals decide whether an article is fit for publication, needs minor or major revision, or whether it should be rejected.
Why is it important?
The peer-review process has been considered as a hallmark of producing good scientific research for over 300 years. It rules out false claims, lack of evidence, inconsistency in arguments and other kinds of biases. The general consensus is that experts of a field are the most qualified to determine how the field advances, and to help improve the quality of research in a subject.
While the final decision of publication is on the editor, peers play an important role in assessing the scientific validity of a work of research.
A peek into the peer-review process:
A prospective researcher submits their paper to a journal. The journal then evaluates the paper by their standards and either accept or reject it for publication. If your paper is accepted, it then goes for a round of blind peer review. This means that this round of evaluators are not told who you are, and review your paper solely on merit. The journal calls for reviewers who they think are appropriate to review the scientific strength of your work. Depending on the journal and the field of study, between one to three peers may review the work.
These peers, also known as referees, then review your work.
What do they check for?
- The validity and reliability of your methods
- A well-argued, comprehensive paper
- The relevance of your contribution to the field of study
What happens to your paper after the blind review?
One of these four things could happen.
- Accept the manuscript for publication, without editing
- Accept the manuscript for publication, with minor revisions
- Reject the manuscript and ask the author to expand on existing work
- Outright reject the manuscript.
Now that we’ve answered some of the most important questions about the peer review process, you are prepared for our next article. It will further unravel the peer review process: explaining types and stages in more detail.
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