Paradoxically widely accepted Peer Review Revealed

Paradoxically widely accepted and widely criticized, peer review nevertheless solidly underpins the scientific enterprise. The stated purpose of peer review is to make certain of the accuracy and rigor of research findings before they are disseminated. While reviewers have traditionally remained anonymous in this process, some in the research community have been calling for more transparency. The Science Advisory Board decided to ask its members in what instances confidentiality should be maintained.

Of the nearly 400 responses in an Instant Poll, 44% think that reviewers should be anonymous for grant, publication and tenure reviews. Of these three types of evaluations, most scientists believe that it is more important for grant reviewers to remain anonymous than either publication or tenure reviewers. In contrast, almost 20% of respondents believe that reviewers should never be anonymous for any of these three assessments.

“When optimally functioning, peer review examines research proposals or results for problems with conception, execution and interpretation as well as evaluating their significance,” explains Tamara Zemlo, Ph.D., MPH, Executive Director of The Science Advisory Board. At its very essence peer review helps ensure the legitimacy of the research being conducted. However, critics suggest that some reviewers might be unqualified and others are biased due to personal or professional rivalries. They therefore assert that those being reviewed have a right to know who their reviewers are in order to establish a more level playing field and to seek recourse when necessary.

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