When asked, every scientist I’ve ever spoken to, save three, has supported the core principles of peer review, and most even support the current peer-review system. Countless surveys show this to be true as well. And most importantly, society supports peer review. Think climate change. GMO foods. Drug safety. Stem cells. “Published in a peer-reviewed journal” has long been the indicator of what to trust. Peer review is also important for students; it may be fine for senior scientists to evaluate research on their own without the benefit of peer review, but scientists-in-training need a way to develop and calibrate their own critical thinking skills.
Given that it’s Peer Review Week, now seems like an opportune time to stand up and sing the praises of peer review.
But sentiments today around peer review are complicated. There are forces swirling in the air that have the potential to undermine it as a cornerstone of the scientific process. There is undeniable value in a healthy debate about how peer review can be improved and possibly whether science even needs peer review at all, but as a community, we all have a responsibility to move forward and embrace change with our eyes open to the legacy we will leave for science and future generations of scientists. If we take steps to erode or marginalize the value of peer review, we have to do that knowingly and intentionally, not because we ended up there by accident.