Reviewing the review process: Investigation of researchers’ opinions on different methods of peer review

Author : Carolin Anna Rebernig

Peer review is considered the gold standard of scientific publishing. Trust in the traditional system of editor – blind-reviewer – author is still high, but it’s authority is in decline and alternative methods are on the rise.

The current study investigates opinions of alternative peer review methods, the arguments for and against, and the reasons why academics are searching for new approaches. The opinions were analysed by applying qualitative content analysis to online discussions.

The findings were interpreted using two different sociological theories: the Mertonian sociology of science and social constructivism.

The results of the study show that the most discussed method was also the most traditional one: closed pre-publication peer review comprised of single blind, double-blind and open peer review (non blinded).

Discussions of open peer review (both open publishing of reports and open discussions) were also common. All other alternative methods were discussed much less. But the discussions were lively and each method was discussed in both positive and negative terms.

The reasons for preferring certain methods were also manifold, but dominant topics were bias and fairness, quality issues (regarding reviews and publications), issues concerning human resources and communication and exchange among people.

The results of this study demonstrate that while ethical norms seems to be a scientific ideal, human nature makes it impossible to accomplish this goal.