Peer review in the sciences
In the September issue of Wired magazine, Adam Rogers has an interesting (and amusing) piece about how peer review is evolving -- Get Wiki With It: Peer review – the unsung hero and convenient villain of science – gets an online makeover. Rogers notes:
"Almost every journal does it, from marquee pubs like Nature to highly specialized periodicals like International Journal of Chemical Reactor Engineering. (No offense to IJCRE – you guys are a helluva read.) When it works, it's genius – quality control that ensures the best papers get into the appropriate pages, lubricating communication and debate. It's the quiet soul of the scientific method: After forming hypotheses, collecting data, and crunching numbers, you report the results to learned colleagues and ask, "What do you folks think?"
But science is done by humans, and humans occasionally screw up. They plagiarize, fake data, take incorrect readings. And when they do? Oy! Somebody always blames peer review. The process is lousy at policing research. Bad papers get published, and work that's merely competent (boring) or wildly speculative (maverick) often gets rejected, enforcing a plodding conservatism. It seems silly to say this about a system that's been in development since the mid-1700s, but the whole thing seems kind of antiquated. "Peer review was brilliant when distribution was a problem and you had to be selective about what you could publish," says Chris Surridge, managing editor of the online interdisciplinary journal PLoS ONE."
The piece mentions new peer review processes being tested as part of Nature's new peer review debate and by the new journal from the Public Library of Science, PLoS ONE.
JAMA editorial: "The influence of money on medical science"
Recent media commentary on peer review
Image editing in the medical literature