The guarantee of quality: All types of peer review
The important role of the peer review process is unquestionable in scholarly publishing. It stands for an objective evaluation of a submitted manuscript by qualified members of the research community, thereby, being a guarantee that what gets published adheres to professional standards. Given the significance of the topic, we have decided to dedicate yet another blog article to it focusing on the common types of peer review models and their origins. This will complement our earlier posts on the various steps of peer review and on its importance in science.
A brief history of peer review
Based on Spier (2002), the practice of peer review has been around for almost 2,000 years. Until the invention of the printing press, there were already some pieces of evidence for the presence of review activities in the works of the copyists of biblical texts as well as physicians affiliated with local councils in Syria. With the advent of the printing press, there emerged a need to control what gets printed, and thus, peer review became an even more common practice in the 15th century. The consequences of an unfavorable evaluation were quite different then though: It could have led to burning an author alive! Nevertheless, the concept of peer review took its current shape and was officially introduced by the journal, Philosophical Transactions published by the Royal Society of London, in the 18th century.
With the expansion of the scientific community in the second half of the 20th century, peer review became the standard practice in scholarly publishing and so was the current era of modern peer review born. Initially, reviewers would receive the manuscript in a printed format and send the typewritten evaluations back to the editors via mail or fax. Since the spread of the Internet, however, the whole process of peer review tends to take place online.
In essence, the peer review process has two purposes (Kelly et al., 2014). First, it helps to ensure that only those research papers get published that contain original and valid findings, and thus, make a significant contribution to the scientific domain in question. Second, it also aims to contribute to the improvement of the quality of manuscripts that are accepted for publication. That is, reviewers check the submitted manuscripts for writing style, structure, consistency, use of references, and so on, and authors are asked to revise their paper before publication.
While, in part, peer review is intended to help authors, sometimes, they refuse to accept the reviewers’ helping hands and benefit from their criticism. A famous example is that of Einstein’s, who, after receiving negative remarks on his work from a reviewer, got offended, withdrew his co-authored paper, and decided to publish it elsewhere (Kennefick, 2005). Ironically, the reviewer’s opinions turned out to be valid, and Einstein later changed his original argument as well.
The types of peer review
Over the years, multiple types of peer review models have emerged. This trend is likely to continue in the future due to the expanding nature of the world of scholarly publishing. In what follows, we provide a brief overview of the five most common forms of peer review models by briefly introducing each.
Single-anonymized peer review
This type of peer review, also called single blind peer review, can be regarded as the most common in science. In this instance, the identity of the reviewer remains unknown to the author. While this allows the reviewers to be fully candid about their opinions, their awareness of the author’s identity can bias their evaluations and also cause them to discriminate based on, for example, country of origin or gender.
Double-anonymized peer review
This form of peer review, also known as double blind peer review, is very popular within the social sciences and humanities. In this case, the identity of the author and that of the reviewer remain hidden from each other. On the plus side, double-anonymized review maximizes the lack of occurrence of bias in peer review. Nevertheless, full anonymity can never be guaranteed as, in some cases, especially in smaller research communities, the research topic, the cited references or even the writing style might tip off the author of the paper in question.
Open peer review
The adoption of this type of peer review has been continuously on the rise in scholarly publishing. As the name suggests, the identity of the authors and the reviewers are not hidden from any of the parties involved in the peer review process. This method does not only increase the transparency, but, in turn, the quality of peer review as well. On the negative side, it should also be mentioned that some reviewers might be afraid of sharing their opinions about a senior author’s manuscript due to the potential negative impact on their career prospects.
Collaborative peer review
This type of peer review stands for a group of experts conducting the peer review together, sometimes even in collaboration with the author. While collaborative review promises to be as constructive as peer review can get, in the end, it can be hard to distinguish between the author and the reviewer.
Post-publication peer review
As part of this form of peer review, the reviewers evaluate a paper after it has been published. This method can be complemented with a pre-publication review; however, this is not a must. Although the practice of post-publication peer review offers authors the chance to improve their work after publication, it goes against the logic of traditional practices, namely, the publication of corrections and errata.
If you are a peer reviewer…
Reviewers are recruited through many channels, such as by editorial board members, previous reviewers, and the references section of the article under evaluation, and generally, they conduct the peer review pro bono. So, why is being a reviewer still worth it? It does not only improve other people’s research, but at the same time, helps one become better at researching and writing as well. Also, you can not only learn about the latest research findings immediately, but also mention your review activity in your CV and grant applications. Finally, it should also be mentioned that being asked to review an article is a great honor as it means that you are recognized as an expert in your field.
Once you have accepted a peer review request, the question as to how to be good at conducting a peer review arises. Mavrogenis et al. (2020) make an excellent summary of the required characteristics. According to them, a good peer reviewer should be objective, responsible, reliable, polite, honest, and clear.
Peer review at AKJournals
AKJournals is committed to publishing high-quality papers. Our editorial boards and reviewers, whose work needs to adhere to the highest ethical standards, play a great role in this. The journal submissions are either subjected to a single-blind peer review or a double-blind peer review depending on the given journal’s policy, which can be found in the Author Guidelines of each title. As a token of our appreciation, our reviewers can obtain a certificate about their completed peer review activity, which can be useful when handing in applications.
Kelly, J., Sadeghieh, T., & Adeli, K. (2014). Peer review in scientific publications: Benefits, critiques, and a survival guide. eJIFCC, 25(3), 227–243. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.ifcc.org/media/332102/eJIFCC2014Vol25No3pp227-243.pdf
Kennefick, D. (2005). Einstein versus the Physical Review. Physics Today, 58(9), 43. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.2117822
Mavrogenis, A. F., Quaile, A., & Scarlat, M. M. (2020). The good, the bad and the rude peer review. International Orthopaedics, 44, 413–415. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00264-020-04504-1
Spier, R. (2002). The history of the peer-review process. TRENDS in Biotechnology, 20(8), 357–358. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0167-7799(02)01985-6