Peer review

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An anonymous reviewer at the American National Institutes of Health evaluates a grant proposal.

(This cannot be confirmed.)

Peer review is the usually anonymous evaluation of work by one or more people who are supposed to be of similar competence to the producers of the work (peers). It constitutes a form of self-regulation, or even censorship, by selected members of a profession within the relevant field. Anonymous peer review methods are employed to maintain the status quo, to keep up the appearance of standards of quality, and to provide credibility. In academia, scholarly peer review is often used to determine an academic paper's suitability for publication. In particular, if the reviewer feels that a paper goes against the consensus paradigm, it may be rejected. Peer review can be categorized by the type of activity and by the field or profession in which the activity occurs, e.g., medical peer review.

The concept and practice of peer review have many critics who find them to be invalid.

[T]he majority is always staunchly arrayed against anything new. They always were and they still are. That alone destroys the rationale of peer review, since a person with a new and better idea has no peers. - Miles Mathis[1]


Professional peer review is said to focus on the performance of professionals, with a view to improving quality, upholding standards, or providing certification. In academia, peer review is common in decisions related to faculty advancement and tenure.[citation needed]

A prototype professional peer-review process was recommended in the Ethics of the Physician written by Ishāq ibn ʻAlī al-Ruhāwī (854–931). He stated that a visiting physician had to make duplicate notes of a patient's condition on every visit. When the patient was cured or had died, the notes of the physician were examined by a local medical council of other physicians, who would decide whether the treatment had met the required standards of medical care.[2]

Professional peer review is common in the field of health care, where it is usually called clinical peer review.[3] Further, since peer review activity is commonly segmented by clinical discipline, there is also physician peer review, nursing peer review, dentistry peer review, etc.[4] Many other professional fields have some level of peer review process: accounting,[5][6] law,[7][8] engineering (e.g., software peer review, technical peer review), aviation, and even forest fire management.[9]

Peer review is used in education to achieve certain learning objectives, particularly as a tool to reach higher order processes in the affective and cognitive domains as defined by Bloom's taxonomy. This may take a variety of forms, including closely mimicking the scholarly peer review processes used in science and medicine.[10][11]


Peer-reviewed scholarly journals are often found to contain a large percentage of erroneous information and irreproducible results. The top science journal ''Nature'', and the top medical journal ''Lancet'' are two prominent examples where the quality of the work has deteriorated so far that their senior editors have resorted to publicizing this problem. In each of these cases, the number of erroneous, or even fraudulent (to use their word), papers exceeds one third of the entire content of the respective journals (citations needed).

History of scholarly peer review

Government policy

The European Union has been using peer review in the 'Open Method of Co-ordination' of policies in the fields of active labour market policy since 1999.[12] In 2004, a program of peer reviews started in social inclusion.[13] Each program sponsors about eight peer review meetings in each year, in which a 'host country' lays a given policy or initiative open to examination by half a dozen other countries and the relevant European-level NGOs. These usually meet over two days and include visits to local sites where the policy can be seen in operation. The meeting is preceded by the compilation of an expert report on which participating 'peer countries' submit comments. The results are published on the web.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, through UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews, uses the technique of peer review to evaluate progress made by its member countries in improving their environmental policies.[citation needed]

The State of California is the only U.S. state to mandate scientific peer review. In 1997, the California Governor signed into law Senate Bill 1320 (Sher), Chapter 295, statutes of 1997, which mandates that, before any CalEPA Board, Department, or Office adopts a final version of a rule-making, the scientific findings, conclusions, and assumptions on which the proposed rule are based must be submitted for independent external scientific peer review. This requirement is incorporated into the California Health and Safety Code Section 57004. (citation needed)


Medical peer review may refer to clinical peer review, or the peer evaluation of clinical teaching skills for both physicians and nurses,[14][15] or scientific peer review of journal articles, or to a secondary round of peer review for the clinical value of articles concurrently published in medical journals.[16] "Medical peer review" has been used by the American Medical Association to refer not only to the process of improving quality and safety in health care organizations, but also to the process of rating clinical behavior or compliance with professional society membership standards.[17][18] Thus, the terminology has poor standardization and specificity, particularly as a database search term.[citation needed]

Criticism of peer review

[S]cience is not government. Yes, we have administration in science, which could be called a sort of government, but science itself is not the administration of science. Science is one thing and administration of science is another thing. That being true, we should also see that science, as science, is not “democratic.” Or, to be more rigorous, it is not egalitarian. No, it is hierarchical. The entire history of science is proof of that. The history of science is a history of great individual thinkers, of Archimedes and Leonardo and Galileo and Kepler and Newton and Einstein. It is not a history of committees and peer groups. Galileo did not succeed by a vote. Newton did nothing with the authority of a majority. Just the reverse. All these great people did what they did against the majorities of their times. You only have to study their lives to see that, in science and other hierarchies, the majority is always wrong. In both society and in science, the majority is always staunchly arrayed against anything new. They always were and they still are. That alone destroys the rationale of peer review, since a person with a new and better idea has no peers. He or she has the idea and no one else has it. And, in most cases, the new and better idea is not immediately comprehensible to those who did not have it: if it had been immediately comprehensible to them, they would have had it themselves.[1]

Existence of Peers

The "Peer" concept requires the physical existence of individuals qualified to judge the offered work. Not only does the anonymous Peer have to be qualified, he also has to exist. Neither of these criteria can be confirmed under an anonymous peer review system. One example-

BioMed Central, a UK-based publishing house that’s responsible for distributing 277 peer-reviewed journals, has retracted 43 papers, having discovered that they had published several papers with fabricated peer reviews. While most of these papers were written by academics working in Chinese universities... Jigisha Patel, associate editorial director for research integrity at BioMed Central, [said] "[It’s] not a China problem. We get a lot of robust research of China. We see this as a broader problem of how scientists are judged."[19]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Miles Mathis. "DEMOCRACY IN SCIENCE". Miles Mathis. Retrieved January 26, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Spier, Ray (2002). "The history of the peer-review process". Trends in Biotechnology. 20 (8): 357–8. doi:10.1016/S0167-7799(02)01985-6. PMID 12127284.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Dans, PE (1993). "Clinical peer review: burnishing a tarnished image". Ann. Intern. Med. 118 (7): 566–8. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-118-7-199304010-00014. PMID 8442628.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Milgrom P, Weinstein P, Ratener P, Read WA, Morrison K; Weinstein; Ratener; Read; Morrison (1978). "Dental Examinations for Quality Control: Peer Review versus Self-Assessment". Am. J. Public Health. 68 (4): 394–401. doi:10.2105/AJPH.68.4.394. PMC 1653950. PMID 645987.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "AICPA Peer Review Manual". American Institute of CPAs. Retrieved October 4, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 2012 Peer Review Program Manual
  7. "Peer Review". UK Legal Services Commission. Retrieved October 4, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Peer Review Ratings". Martindale. Retrieved October 4, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Peer Review Panels – Purpose and Process" (PDF). USDA Forest Service. February 6, 2006. Retrieved October 4, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Sims Gerald K. (1989). "Student Peer Review in the Classroom: A Teaching and Grading Tool" (PDF). Journal of Agronomic Education. 18: 105–108. The review process was double-blind to provide anonymity for both authors and reviewers, but was otherwise handled in a fashion similar to that used by scientific journals<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Liu, Jianguo; Pysarchik, Dawn Thorndike; Taylor, William W. (2002). "Peer Review in the Classroom" (PDF). BioScience. 52 (9): 824–829. doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2002)052[0824:PRITC]2.0.CO;2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Mutual Learning Programme – Peer Reviews
  13. Peer Review and Assessment in Social Inclusion—Evaluations par les pairs
  15. Ludwick R, Dieckman BC, Herdtner S, Dugan M, Roche M; Dieckman; Herdtner; Dugan; Roche (November–December 1998). "Documenting the scholarship of clinical teaching through peer review". Nurse Educ. 23 (6): 17–20. doi:10.1097/00006223-199811000-00008. PMID 9934106.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Haynes RB, Cotoi C, Holland J; et al. (2006). "Second-order peer review of the medical literature for clinical practitioners". JAMA. 295 (15): 1801–8. doi:10.1001/jama.295.15.1801. PMID 16622142. Explicit use of et al. in: |author2= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. (page 131)
  18. Archived March 6, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  19. "Major journal publisher admits to publishing fabricated peer reviews". Science Alert. March 30, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>