The publishing Research Consortium has released recently an international study on Peer review, the process of subjecting an author’s scholarly manuscript to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field, prior to publication in a journal.
Here are some key findings:
Peer review is widely supported by academics. The large majority (85%) agree that peer review greatly helps scientific communication and believed (83%) that without peer review there would be no control.
Peer review improves the quality of the published paper. Researchers overwhelmingly (90%) said the main area of effectiveness of peer review was in improving the quality of the published paper, and a similar percentage said it had improved their own last published paper, including identifying scientific errors and missing and inaccurate references.
There is a desire for improvement. While the majority (64%) of academics declared themselves satisfied with the current system of peer review used by journals (and just 12% dissatisfied), they were divided on whether the current system is the best that can be achieved. There was evidence that peer review is too slow (38% were dissatisfied with peer review times) and that reviewers are overloaded.
Double-blind review was seen as the most effective. Double-blind review had the most respondents (71%) who perceived it to be effective, followed (in declining order) by single-blind (52%), post-publication (37%) and open peer review (26%).
Double-blind review faces some fundamental objections. Double-blind review was primarily supported because of its perceived objectivity and fairness. Many respondents, including some of those supporting double-blind review, did however point out that there were great difficulties in operating it in practice because it was frequently too easy to identify authors from their references, type of work or other internal clues.
The study was based on an online questionnaire with 3040 respondents recruited by email. consisting of approximately. Data was collected in November 2007.
Mark Ware Consulting, a publishing consultancy (www.markwareconsulting.com), was responsible for designing and managing the survey; the online hosting and data analysis was provided by Mike Monkman Media (http://mikemonkman.com/).