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What is Peer Review?

 

Peer review is a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility. In Academia Publishing, review is often used to determine an academic paper's suitability for publication.

Pragmatically, peer review refers to the work done during the screening of submitted manuscripts. This process encourages authors to meet the accepted standards of their discipline and prevents the dissemination of irrelevant findings, unwarranted claims, unacceptable interpretations, and personal views. Publications that have not undergone peer review are likely to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals.
 

Open peer review
It has been suggested that traditional anonymous peer review lacks accountability, can lead to abuse by reviewers, and may be biased and inconsistent, alongside other flaws. In response to these criticisms, other systems of peer review with various degrees of "openness" have been suggested.

 

Anonymous peer review

Anonymous peer review, also called blind review, is a system of prepublication peer review of articles or papers for journals by reviewers who are known to the journal editor but whose names are not given to the article's author. The reviewers do not know the author's identity, as any identifying information is stripped from the document before review. The system is intended to reduce or eliminate bias.


Justification
It is difficult for authors and researchers, whether individually or in a team, to spot every mistake or flaw in a complicated piece of work. This is not necessarily a reflection on those concerned, but because with a new and perhaps eclectic subject, an opportunity for improvement may be more obvious to someone with special expertise or who simply looks at it with a fresh eye. Therefore, showing work to others increases the probability that weaknesses will be identified and improved. For both grant-funding and publication, it is also normally a requirement that the subject is both novel and substantial

Furthermore, the decision whether or not to publish a scholarly article, or what should be modified before publication, lies with the editor of the journal to which the manuscript has been submitted. Similarly, the decision whether or not to fund a proposed project rests with an official of the funding agency. These individuals usually refer to the opinion of one or more reviewers in making their decision. This is primarily for three reasons:


Workload: A small group of editors/assessors cannot devote sufficient time to each of the many articles submitted to many journals.
Diversity of opinion: Were the editor/assessor to judge all submitted material themselves, approved material would solely reflect their opinion.
Limited expertise: An editor/assessor cannot be expected to be sufficiently expert in all areas covered by a single journal or funding agency to adequately judge all submitted material.

Reviewers
Reviewers are typically anonymous and independent, to help foster unvarnished criticism, and to discourage cronyism in funding and publication decisions.
 

Procedure
In the case of proposed publications, an editor sends advance copies of an author's work to researchers or scholars who are experts in the field. Usually, there are two or three referees for a given article.

Referees' evaluations usually include an explicit recommendation of what to do with the manuscript or proposal, often chosen from options provided by the journal or funding agency. Most recommendations are along the lines of the following:


1. To unconditionally accept the manuscript or proposal,
2. To accept it in the event that its authors improve it in certain ways,
3. To reject it, but encourage revision and invite resubmission,
4. To reject it outright.


During this process, the role of the referees is advisory, and the editor is typically under no formal obligation to accept the opinions of the referees.  The referees do not act as a group, do not communicate with each other, and typically are not aware of each others identities or evaluations. There is usually no requirement that the referees achieve consensus. Thus the group dynamics are substantially different from that of a jury.


Peer review failure
Peer review failures occur when a peer-reviewed article contains obvious fundamental errors that undermine at least one of its main conclusions. Many journals have no procedure to deal with peer review failures beyond publishing letters to the editor.
Peer review in academia assumes that the article reviewed has been honestly written, and the process is not designed to detect fraud.
An experiment on peer review with a fictitious manuscript has found that peer reviewers may not detect all errors in a manuscript and the majority of reviewers may not realize the conclusions of the paper is unsupported by the results.
When peer review fails and a paper is published with fraudulent or otherwise irreproducible data, the paper may be retracted.

 


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