Let’s face it: The traditional peer-review process was not meant for a digital age. It needs to be altered (not abandoned) so that it once again has a consistently useful function, working as something other than a wall to be breached. It needs to help move the best of scholarship to the fore while providing avenues for improvement to the rest. In needs to encourage ethical and original scholarship with promotion of even further research in mind. Passing through it successfully should not, in and of itself, be the goal.
Though there are many journals that have developed new and better means of peer review, we’re also seeing newer and better ways of gaming the system. In too many eyes, peer-review success becomes the gold cup, when meaningful research should be. Yes, the two should be one and the same, but we are not going to achieve that until we make sure that, in every case, peer review is seen as helpful rather than simply as hazing–as too often happens.
Retraction Watch has a short post today that’s well worth reading. It’s on fake peer review, and it links to a post from the Committee on Publication Ethics “Statement on Inappropriate Manipulation of Peer Review Processes”:
While there are a number of well-established reputable agencies offering manuscript-preparation services to authors, investigations at several journals suggests that some agencies are selling services, ranging from authorship of pre-written manuscripts to providing fabricated contact details for peer reviewers during the submission process and then supplying reviews from these fabricated addresses.
With the explosion of information of the digital age has come need for new ways of evaluating it and of making sure that those attempting to take advantage of the weaknesses of old policies in a new age are thwarted. Again, many journals are already doing so, making peer-review a dynamic process involving authors, editors and reviewers, one that would make “fabricated contact details” useless. But that, unfortunately, is not yet always the case.