Writing Exercise #10

Prompt: Describe the process of peer review to someone who does not frequently read scientific articles. In your response, consider the pros and cons of peer review and how that might impact the credibility of the results that come from that scientific article.

  • The process of peer-review is important because it subjects work written by researchers to criticism from other experts in the same field to check validity, clarity, integrity and suitability of a work for publication. Experts in the scientific community are actively involved in this process both by being the reviewer of other works, as well as having their work reviewed. 
  • The process of peer-review begins with the submission of the paper. Once authors are satisfied with their manuscript draft, they select a journal that they wish to send the manuscript to. Once researchers have agreed on a journal they would like to send their manuscript to, the manuscript is sent to the journal’s editor, whose job is to work with the publisher of the journal to check the submitted manuscript’s composition and arrangement to see if it aligns with the journal’s philosophy. At this point the manuscript can be rejected and the authors must find another journal to submit to, or, if the editor doesn’t reject the manuscript, it gets sent out to be reviewed by typically 2-4 established, published researchers in the field of work related to the manuscript submitted. After the reviewers have received the manuscript, they are tasked with reading it in its entirety and evaluating it for scientific merit. At this point reviewers comb through the paper for sections included, is the topic relevant, is the data sufficient and correctly interpreted, and much more to provide substantial feedback. After reading through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb, the reviewers will then write a summary of their thoughts in a letter to the editor, as well as providing their overall impression of the manuscript. In this letter they provide their concerns, questions, as well as their recommendation as to whether the editor should reject or accept the manuscript. After this is done and the editor has received the feedback from the reviewers, the manuscript can either be accepted with no revisions required, which is rare, it can be rejected, or the comments can be sent back to the author to allow them to revise their manuscript. From here the authors have the opportunity to respond to the editor with changes they did and did not make in response to the criticisms. After this it is sent out to be reviewed again, and the process continues until the manuscript is published or ultimately rejected. 
  • Pros 
    • Establishes validity of research and prevents acceptance of falsified work 
    • Allows for valuable feedback to be given to authors in order to improve their manuscripts prior to publication
  • Cons 
    • The peer review process is very lengthy and can cause significant delay of access to research findings 
    • It can be hard to maintain anonymity of reviewers
    • Sometimes the review standards are lower in less prestigious journals and may not prevent publication of poor research 
    • Bias or conflict of interest: peer-review process has been accused of protecting the opinions of reviewers who are not open to new ideas which in turn can affect the credibility of results that come from journals


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