Improving the quality of peer review
It is estimated that global research output doubles every 9 years, with the number of researchers growing at a rate of 4% to 5% a year.
If each research manuscript produced by these researchers needs at least two peer reviewers, and the job of peer review falls on those who are judged by, amongst other criteria, the amount they have published, it is clear that the imbalance between those who are deemed able to peer review against those who need peer review will become greater and greater as the number of new researchers rises.
While the process of peer review can be made more efficient, as addressed by various innovations in recent years, maintaining the quality of peer review is more challenging.
While the process of peer review can be made more efficient, as addressed by various innovations in recent years, maintaining the quality of peer review is more challenging. There is a need for more people able to do peer review well.
Quality cannot be measured by the number of peer review reports completed, nor can the ability of peer reviewers be judged by how much they have published. Field-specific agreed standards and formal training need to play a major role in addressing the demand for peer reviewers and maintaining peer review quality.
This will require a huge change in the current paradigm of scientific peer review and involve ‘buy in’ from all stakeholders in the scientific process.
Read more from the experts
In the meantime, journals and professional editors can do their bit to increase the pool of peer reviewers who can provide high quality peer review by facilitating the sharing of experience and knowledge of those who set the standards with those who want to learn.
Following on from the ‘How to peer review for beginners’ series on BioMed Central’s blog earlier this year, BMC Medicine has commissioned a series of specialized ‘How to’ peer review articles from its very experienced Editorial Board members who are experts in their field as well as experienced editors.
As explained in our editorial, the first articles of the series, here, here and here, focus on how to peer review studies that use various clinical research methodologies. More will follow.
Why not try our quiz to see how much of a specialist in peer review you are?