Peer review for researchers

This report investigates the pros and cons of peer reviews.

Research Information Network (2010) Peer review: A guide for researchers [Online]. Available at 


  1. What is peer review?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Support and criticism
  4. Is it effective?
  5. Is it fair? Subjectivity and transparency
  6. Is it efficient? Speeding it up and lightening the burden
  7. New challenges and opportunities


Peer review is a quality check used in several circumstances, such as when evaluating:

As that list indicates, peer review is often tied to financial concerns, but the review itself is often done by unpaid volunteers who do it because they think the work is important, because they get mentioned en masse in publication “thanks” at the end of a year, or because they get some small item in trade (like a free or reduced subscription rate to the journal for which they worked).

Peer review improves quality, but perhaps at a cost:

That it encourages conservative thinking may be a natural consequence of reviewers having natural biases. If a person has an incentive to be published, then that person will write what people will agree with — to meet the incentive.

These institutions use different levels of transparency to encourage objective reviews:

Each of these methods have their pros and cons. Anonymity can hide theft and bias on the part of the reviewers, but also it makes it easier for reviewers to critique work, especially if the reviewer is in a less senior role than the submitter.

Some people are now suggesting that reviews only be conducted after publishing, so that the system moves faster. Others argue for establishing alongside peer reviews a formal system of evaluations through comments and ratings.

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