Peer review is under the spotlight again and not for the first time. So that one may understand where we have arrived with peer review in scientific journalism, some background information is first required.
Research is proposed in a specific and often specialised scientific field. Finance is applied for, that is often tax payer funded. The research’s hypothesis is proved or disproved, written up, if proved, submitted to a “scientific journal” for peer review in an iterative process (by another scientific collective who have worked on similar research) until final draft, the “author final version”; this process is facilitated by an editor at a scientific journal. The final version is then submitted for publication in a specialist “scientific journal”; not necessarily the journal the paper was first submitted to for peer review. The more prestigious the journal, the more weight will be carried with the paper’s publication. Publication of “successful research” can often lead to further funding being provided on the same, similar or different research by the paper’s authors.
However into this equation is thrown academia. Academia over the past 10 years, arguably 15 or more years, has installed a philosophy of publish or be damned to the point that in 2006, an estimated 1.3 million papers were published; with publishing being linked to funding in academic circles. In a publication culture where quantity of published papers is cherished, quality is bound to suffer. The recent case of Professor Wolfgang Wagner who resigned as editor-in-chief from a climate science journal highlights the need for more restraint within academic research circles. Continue reading