Vox ponders why journals still rely on peer review

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A recent article from Vox examined various problems with peer review, saying it’s unclear why scientists even “bother with it in the first place.”

The authors, Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman, cite numerous studies that have found peer review does a poor job of weeding out low-quality articles, even going back 30 years in one case to describe a specific experiment carried out by two researchers.

“The reasons it fails are similar to the reasons any human process falls down,” the authors wrote. “Usually, it's only a few reviewers who look at an article. Those reviewers aren't paid for their time, but they participate out of a belief in the scientific process and to contribute to their respective fields. Maybe they're rushed when reading a manuscript. Maybe they're poorly matched to the study and unqualified to pick it apart. Maybe they have a bias against the writer or institution behind the paper.”

The authors also describe an unfortunate side effect of how peer review is often carried out: “Since the process is usually blinded — at least on the side of the reviewer (with the aim of eliciting frank feedback) — this can also up the snark factor or encourage rushed and unhelpful comments, as the popular #sixwordpeerreview hashtag shows.”

The article goes into much greater detail, and is worth reading for anyone whoever finds themselves on either side of the peer review system.

Click below to read the full article.