The Publishing Research Consortium publishes a study this month (January 2008) in whch more than 3,000 senior authors, reviewers and editors were asked about the peer-review system. The conclusions are that researchers want to “improve, not change, the system of peer review for journal articles”. According to the report, a summary of which is available (1.7 MB; PDF), more than 93 per cent of respondents believe that peer review is necessary, and more than 85 per cent say that it helps to improve scientific communications and increases the overall quality of published papers.
Although many respondents pointed out the operational difficulties in double-blind peer review, two-thirds of respondents felt that it is the most objectively fair system, compared with single-blind (the current prevalent system). Alternatives such as post-publication and open peer-review were not popular.
While of the majority of respondents saw peer review as an effective filter for research, some did not think it was effective at detecting plagiarism, fraud or misconduct. Interestingly, most reviewers among the respondents thought that paying peer-reviewers would be too expensive for publishers; most of them said that they perform reviewing as part of their support to their research community.
The full report is available here (1 GB; PDF). According to the Publishing Research Consortium, the main objective of the study was “to measure the attitudes and behaviour of the academic community with regard to peer review. This will inform debate concerning peer review, and underpin discussions, either in discussion lists or at future workshops/conferences.”
This new report comes as the NIH (National Institutes of Health) finish analysing the thousands of responses to their assessment of grant peer review. Lawrence Tabak and colleagues are filtering the list into a set of key recommendations, which will be given to Elias Zerhouni, director of NIH, at the end of February.
Update, 29 Jan 2008. Nature Neuroscience discusses the NIH peer-review exercise in its February issue Editorial (Rethinking grant review Nature Neuroscience 11, 119; 2008).