Peer review week is an annual week dedicated to the scholarly process of peer review.
According to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), "Peer review is the process by which a piece of scientific research is assessed by others—a researcher’s fellow peers—who are suitably qualified and able to judge the piece of work under review in terms of novelty, soundness and significance" (2017).
Peer review helps to ensure that high-quality, accurate, and ethical work is being published. It is an integral part of the research process and a staple in the academic research community. Students can also benefit from learning the peer review process. In the book Student-Led Peer Review: A Practical Guide to Implementation Across Disciplines and Modalities, the authors state that "student-led peer review is a powerful tool for learning. It helps students master academic content, improve the quality of their work, and develop self-evaluative, interpersonal, and practical workplace skills" (Lowe et. al, 2022).
Once a manuscript is submitted to a journal for publication, an editor or editorial team collaborates with a group of peer reviewers to evaluate it. Usually the editor(s) function as the initial screening layer, through which manuscripts that are deemed within scope and of high quality are passed on to peer reviewers for commenting and review. The peer reviewers then read the manuscript, making notes or commenting as they see fit. Each journal has a set of guidelines for peer reviewers to follow that can be extensive or simple. Following the review, the annotated manuscript is then returned to the author, allong with the decision of the peer reviewer. Decisions can fall under five major categories:
While the editor(s) ultimately make the final call on accepting or rejecting a manuscript, reviewer recommendations play a major role in that decision. If you are submitting a manuscript to be published, it is necessary to take the annotations and recommendations of your peer reviewers seriously in order to ensure publication.
Even though peer review is still considered integral to the research process, it does not come without its own set of issues. Below are just a few:
Despite these issues with peer review, professionals in the field remain compassionate and hopeful. An excerpt taken from a blog post on The Scholarly Kitchen quotes Katie Duffy, Senior Director of Publications at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, stating "We also need to recognize that the pressure on our authors and referees to work quickly and produce more and more can sometimes invite shortcuts or lapses in judgement. Peer reviewer education and strong support from editorial teams is critical to ensuring that right balance between quality and speed" (We Asked the Community: Is Research Integrity Possible without Peer Review?, 2022).
Open peer review is becoming normalized in the scholarly community, in tandem with recognition for peer review activity. For much of the history of scholarly publishing, peer review has been recognized as an essential part of the scholarly practice, however those conducting peer reviews are seldom given credit or recognition for their time and insightfulness. This is in part due to the nature of the traditional double- and single-blind peer review styles, but also to the fact that peer review has been an assumed part of an academic career.
Another major trend, as mentioned above, is the inclusion of training and ethical guidelines for peer reviewers. In July 2018, the Library Publishing Coalition released its first iteration of An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing, which was revised and released as Version 2.0 in May 2023. While this document addresses multiple aspects of the library publishing system, it does include guidelines for best practices in peer review. These guidelines recommend that library publishers "adopt anti-racist practices (e.g. peer review, citation review, organizational development) that address inequities and barriers" as well as,
Provide transparent review and assessment policies, and center mentoring, conversing, collaborating, and caring, rather than gatekeeping; reconsider who can be a peer reviewer, what qualities are important in reviewers, and the purpose of the review; consider whether anonymous or open peer review best serves the disciplines and communities relating to the work.
Living documents such as "Anti-Racist Scholarly Reviewing Practices: A Heuristic for Editors, Reviewers, and Authors" have been created in response to community calls to action for scholarly communications professionals and departments to respond to issues of racial and systemic bias in library and academic publishing. The Coalition for Publishing Ethics (COPE) published it's Ethical guidelines for peer reviewers in 2019, stating that "journals have an obligation to provide transparent policies for peer review, and reviewers have an obligation to conduct reviews in an ethical and accountable manner" (COPE, 2019).
Ethical guidelines for peer reviewers. (2017). Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). https://publicationethics.org/resources/guidelines/cope-ethical-guidelines-peer-reviewers
Hoffman, A. J. (2022). A modest proposal to the peer review process: a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach in the assessment of scholarly communication. Research Ethics, 18(1), 84–91. https://doi.org/10.1177/17470161211051230
Library Publishing Coalition. (2023, May). An Ethical Framework For Library Publishing, Version 2.0. https://librarypublishing.org/resources/ethical-framework/
Lowe, K. A., Cummins, L., Clark, S., Porter, B., & Spitz, L. (2022). Student-Led Peer Review: a Practical Guide to Implementation Across Disciplines and Modalities. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Meyer-Junco, L., & Su, A. (Chloe). (2023). Peer Review Questions & Answers: What & Why? Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, 37(1), 1–2. https://doi.org/10.1080/15360288.2023.2179762
Regala, J., Groth, M., & Casp, M. (2022, November 14). We Asked the Community: Is Research Integrity Possible without Peer Review? The Scholarly Kitchen. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2022/09/14/we-asked-the-community-is-research-integrity-possible-without-peer-review/