The Importance of Peer Review: An Introduction

The Importance of Peer Review: An Introduction

This is the first in a three-part series on the importance of peer review. Click the links below to view related posts.


 

Within my career, service has been one of the most rewarding aspects of scholarship. Service to an academic community can occur in various forms. Whether holding an official position on an organizational board or volunteering for a committee assignment within an institution, service is a recompensing way to contribute constructively to one’s discipline, institution, or the academy as a whole. Personally, I have found the most valuable form of service has occurred within my service as a peer reviewer.

What is Peer Review?

Peer review occurs when you submit your research, scholarly work, or ideas for evaluation by others who are considered experts in a field (Darling, 2015). One will most often see the peer review process as a requirement for a variety of scholarly activities, such as submitting an article to a journal, providing a proposal for an idea for a conference presentation, or offering a book manuscript for publication to a publisher. Whether a presentation or publication, the peer review process allows for a higher level of assurance that a considered form of scholarship meets both the academic standards and acceptable requirements of a proposed submission and the overall mission of a publication or event (Wenning, Burton, Ward, & Lynch, 2014).

What are the Types of Peer Review?

Good question!  There are several types of peer-review processes. The most common is the double-blind peer review process. This occurs when all identifying information is removed from a scholarly submission and it is given to a reviewer who has been selected often because of their expertise in the same or a similar discipline (Darling, 2015). The reviewer will evaluate the paper, using the selected criteria provided by the organization, and likely provide both quantitative and qualitative feedback for both the author and the organization. The more positive the rating (feedback), the more likely the submission will be accepted. This process is named double-blind, as both the submitter and evaluator remain anonymous throughout the entire evaluation process and is often the preferred mode of evaluation, as it allows for a more unbiased review of a submission, as the author’s name and affiliated institution are removed (Rittman & Classen, 2016).

Peer review may also occur in other formats within the review process. In the single-blind peer review process, authors are not informed of the identity of the reviewer, yet reviewers have access to the identity of the author (Darling, 2015). The open peer review process makes the identities of both the author and reviewer available to all within the process (Tattersall, 2015). Finally, on occasionally, editors may decide to take on the role of the peer reviewer, as well (Leopold, 2015). In any case, the peer review process should aim to ensure an impartial review of various types of submissions with the goal of supporting academic quality of scholarship.

How Do I Become a Peer Reviewer?

There are various opportunities to become a peer reviewer. There are some opportunities with a short-term commitment, such as a reviewer of proposals for conference presentations. Assignments, such as serving on an editorial board for a book or reviewing for a journal, often require a lengthier, more time-consuming commitment.

For example, submissions for publication in academic journals often undergo the peer review process. In this case, an editor of a journal will often solicit a group of people with discipline-specific academic qualifications and expertise related to various topics within the scope of the journal. Potential reviewers usually submit a curriculum vita to demonstrate their area of expertise and, if accepted, they remain “on call” for a period of time. During this time, a reviewer’s role is that of a judge or referee for determining the quality and appropriateness of submissions for future publication within the journal. This is why you also may hear someone refer to these journals as “refereed” journals.

Where Should I Look to Become a Reviewer?

I have to note the importance of being selective in affiliation. You will want to align your service with academic journals and conferences that are scholarly in nature. For instance, I often receive unsolicited emails containing requests for my service as a reviewer. Yet, in conducting research on each journal and the publisher, I have found that some are “predatory” in nature. This is where you often see the “pay to publish” model or the “vanity presses” model where there is not a rigorous peer review process for submissions. There are also other tale-tell signs to look for, such as a poorly crafted website, an ambiguous review process, a small or “upcoming” editorial board, and/or the publisher is responsible for numerous journals (Beall, 2017). Not all solicitations will fall under this category, but it is important, as due diligence, to conduct your own research before volunteering for service as a peer reviewer. Publishing resources, such as Cabell’s Directory (www.cabells.com) and Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory (www.ulrichsweb.serialssolutions.com), are helpful resources for identifying valid publications for both service and submission. These are also located within the UOP Library site, as well. Like it or not, in academia, we are often judged by our affiliations!

Peer reviewing definitely has its rewards. Within the process, not only are you able to apply your expertise to benefit others, you are also afforded the opportunity to learn from various unique perspectives of others within your discipline. This creates a winning position for all in the pursuit of advancing quality scholarship.

References:

Beall, J. (2017). Predatory journals, peer review, and education research. New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 29(1), 54-58.

Darling, E. S. (2015). Use of double-blind peer review to increase author diversity. Conservation Biology:The Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, 29(1), 297-299.

Leopold, S. S., M.D. (2015). Editorial: Peer review and the editorial process - A look behind the curtain. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 473(1), 1-3.

Rittman, M., & Classen, A. (2016). Double blind peer-review in humanities. Humanities, 5(1), 1.

Tattersall, A. (2015). For what it’s worth – the open peer review landscape. Online Information Review, 39(5), 649-663.

Wenning, R. J., Burton, G. A., Ward, H., & Lynch, J. (2014). The importance of scientific peer review at SETAC. Environmental Technology and Chemistry, 33(1), 2-3. 

About the Author

Kimberly Underwood

Additional content will be provided upon request.

Kimberly Underwood
More posts by author:

Visit Our Blog

Visit the Research Process Blog for insights and guidance from University researchers Go >>