For something so fundamental to the practice of science, it’s perplexing that it took so long for serious research into editorial peer review to get off the ground. The earliest experimental study I could find was published in 1977, and there still aren’t many of them. I guess it’s a classic case of fish not seeing the water they’re swimming in.
I’ve written a couple of posts covering milestones in peer review research up to the end of 2018. If you want to catch up on the main things we know about peer review at journals, there are links to those at the bottom of this post. Now let’s get straight to the year’s highlights – and please let me know via the comments or Twitter if you know of more studies that have moved us forward.
1. Peer review might sometimes be a kind of academic matchmaking, increasing the chances of future scientific collaboration.
[Exploratory study of co-authorship networks.]
The data come from only one journal, it wasn’t a dramatic phenomenon, and there are other possible explanations for the results. So there are big caveats here. Still, this study adds some substance to the theory that editors selecting peer reviewers could be influencing future co-authorship. And it certainly broadens the perspective we should have of peer review’s potential impact.