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Can Peer Review Be Improved?

The December 15, 1986 issue of The Scientist contained an excerpt from Drummond Rennie's piece on peer review in JAMA (vol. 256, pp. 2391-2392, November 7, 1986), which included the statement "The function of peer review, then, may be to help decide not whether but where papers are published and to improve the quality of those that are accepted." This function is now performed by peer reviewers of scientific journals and granting agencies. Peer review as practiced now, however, poses a serious o

Moshe Wolman
The December 15, 1986 issue of The Scientist contained an excerpt from Drummond Rennie's piece on peer review in JAMA (vol. 256, pp. 2391-2392, November 7, 1986), which included the statement "The function of peer review, then, may be to help decide not whether but where papers are published and to improve the quality of those that are accepted."

This function is now performed by peer reviewers of scientific journals and granting agencies. Peer review as practiced now, however, poses a serious obstacle to the advance of science.

The journal or granting agency sends the article or research proposal to "experts in the field." These are scientists who earlier may have revolted against prevalent dogma and generally accepted opinion. They became recognized as experts once their own notions (and those of their peers) became recognized as the generally accepted truth. As peer reviewers, these scientists are likely to reject notions...

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