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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : In scholarly peer-review, discard bath water, keep baby     

 

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: DST, Scientist-laborers, collective altruism etc
  • Mains GS Paper II and III: Government policies and interventions for development of various sectors and issues arising out of the them etc
  • ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS
  • The chief output of scientists’ labors are articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

How is the Journal prepared?

  • A scholar submits a manuscript to a journal of her choice
  • The journal editor sends it out to scholars familiar with the subject matter of the manuscript for their expert opinion.

 

Peer-review consists of:

  • Summary of the manuscript’s contents
  • Followed by: catalog of all that is right or wrong with the manuscript
  • Ending with a recommendation to accept or reject.
  • If the recommendation is to be accepted, there are usually suggestions for revising the manuscript to make it more suitable for that journal.

 

What is the  bedrock of knowledge production?

  • Pre-publication peer-review is the bedrock of modern scientific knowledge production.
  • They are being peer-reviewed as a necessary condition for the paper’s contents to be considered part of the collective knowledge base.

Reviewing:

  • Reviewing is almost always voluntary, with no financial remuneration and little academic recognition.
  • A report published(2015): It estimated that there were some 28,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed journals in the English language, publishing some 5(two point five)million articles per year.
    • That number is expected to have grown annually at about 4%-5%.

 

Issues that need to be fixed:

  • Real or perceived bias of reviewers based on the address, reputation (or lack thereof), gender or ethnicity of the author or conflicts of interest between author and reviewer.
    • Such bias is probably very common.
  • Most journals fail to implement such a double-blind peer-review system.
  • Authors are also to blame for the ills of the peer-review system.
    • It is routine practice to send articles to the most prestigious journals and have them rejected by successive journals before they find their natural home.
  • Maladaptive behavior as scholars are usually assessed by the names of the journals in which they publish rather than the contents of their articles.
  • Scientific communities — representing the epitome of reason and logic sometimes adopt an irrational procedure to evaluate members of their community.

Way Forward

  • We must cherish and nurture this rare example of collective human altruism that the peer-review system represents.
  • The biases can be mitigated by anonymising both the reviewer and the author.
    • Editor to play a more active role in adjudicating disputes between authors and reviewers.
  • The peer-review system can thus be significantly reformed by
    • adopting double-blind reviews
    • editors playing the role of unbiased referees
    • evaluations of scholars being based on reading the articles rather than admiring the covers of the journals in which they are published.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Q. Do you agree with the view that increasing dependence on donor agencies for development reduces the importance of community participation in the development process ? Justify your answer.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)