Sunday, April 19, 2009

Peer Review

One of my main complaints with the world of science is that to advance one’s career, one must accumulate peer-reviewed journal publications. While having research articles reviewed by fellow specialist scientists clearly helps maintain a higher level of research paper quality, the present peer-review system is severely biased.  
Speaking for myself and for some colleagues – research papers can be rejected on the most spurious grounds: I’ve seen papers rejected by reviewers whose comments show they don’t understand the science/technology behind the paper they are reviewing, I’ve seen papers rejected with no reason given, I’ve even heard of papers being rejected because the reviewer was working on the same research project that they were reviewing – talk about a conflict of interest! The present system allows (and in some ways encourages) scientists to act like 13-year-olds hiding behind an anonymous internet account.

In the present system a reviewer will either be given the names of the authors or could probably determine the author’s research group by typing in a few of the research article’s keywords into Google. On the other hand the reviewer remains anonymous to the research paper author. This reviewer anonymity provides cover for the casual rejection of just about any research paper - as the reviewer has no fear of repercussions