An Unnecessary evil

By Bertil F. Dorch og Charlotte Wien

The purpose of the peer review is to ensure that nothing that does not have sufficient scientific quality finds its way into the columns of the scientific journals. The peer review process found this form around 1950, and so far only a single of Albert Einstein’s more than 300 scientific works underwent peer review (which made him complain to the editor).

In principle this is how it works: The journal editor, will select two or three experienced researchers from the field. Next, he usually sends an anonymized version of the article to them asking them to judge whether the article has scientific quality and, if so, to provide input for possible improvements. This input is sent to the original author who then decides whether she will follow the instructions in whole or in part.

It is obvious that much can go wrong along the way. First, the editor may not find “one or three experienced researchers”. If there is something new, there is certainly no one. And if this is not a new area, then the experienced top researchers tend to be busy publishing and obtaining research funding themselves. As peer review work is largely invisible, not appreciably meritorious and unpaid, the researchers’ incentive to do so is rather flimsy and based on two interests: reading new literature in their own field and benefiting from the common academic environment. Several studies have shown that senior researchers prioritize peer reviews.

In this piece we propose that the peer review process becomes open and happens after the publication

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