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“Leading Opinion: Peer review as professional responsibility: A quality control system only as good as the participants.

Mike Ciavarella's picture

Regarding my recent post  A paper rejected by Int. J. Fatigue --- Persistent Nepotism in Peer Reviews?  See this interesting paper.  Later, I will show as a negative example case the review I had on Int J Fat, not so much because I am any upset about it, but for the sake of improving this process.  I think my case is probably not exceptional, who knows how many receive reviews like this and they give up?  Reviewers should not permitted to make such strong statements (including misunderstanding my paper) without a single reference. If I write a paper with figures, maths, references, a reviewers cannot kill it, abusing their position.

David W. Grainger Biomaterials   Volume 28, Issue 34, December 2007, Pages 5199-5203 Festschrift honouring Professor David F. Williams

Leading Opinion  Peer review as professional responsibility: A quality control system only as good as the participantsstar, open


The peer-review process remains a central part of the value and validity of scientific and technical publishing and proposal assessment. The peer review mechanism has many delicate components that should function most professionally and effectively for best results. An important central tenet is that all who seek to publish should freely avail themselves to review a commensurate load, considering many elements of professional conduct, ethics and responsibility in this process. The review itself should provide timely, unbiased, quality feedback to improve contributions to the system reviewers are serving. An additional component involves follow-on policing of published literature to assert its validity through consensus and validation. This short essay examines our collective duties as contributors, reviewers, and readers to the integrity and safekeeping of this essential quality control process.

Keywords: Peer review; Scientific publishing; Professional conduct; Quality control; Responsibility

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However, responsibility for technical journal quality is often assumed to reside primarily at the editorial level, where the ultimate decision to publish or reject emanates [2,3]. This dangerous presumption ignores (1) the relatively limited expertise of most editors, (2) resulting inability to adequately judge quality and excellence without quality input from skilled reviewers and (3) the bias inherent within any system that relies on limited pooling of expertise to make decisions. With the tremendous expansion in topical breadth, technical methods’ sophistication and information content, no editor should be held hostage by the limited knowledge and relative ignorance of a single mind in this complex scientific system. Enter: the importance of collective assessment of our primary technical literature using credible peer review.

It is well within our prudent personal and professional interests (as well as time and efficiency of our literature surveillance) to ensure the best possible quality in technical publication of research and innovation. A critical determinant of any successful journal or technical communication in general is the sound, reliable capability to readily access a talented, adept, accomplished and reliable reviewer pool .

But quality peer review of a given technical communication or research grant is not simple, easy or quickly performed. It is a tedious, tenuous and difficult task. Significantly, cursory or poor quality reviews are a tremendous disservice to the community, with profound consequences to science beyond the article in question. Those who read or submit work to journals from the global body of scientists and engineers in universities, government labs, research foundations, or industry must continually re-evaluate their sense of commitment to professional technical reviewing obligations that directly affect journal and technical communication quality.

Reasonable professional rules of conduct are rarely explicitly described to recruited or enlisted reviewers to ensure quality journal reporting. Nonetheless, the Council of Science Publishing has produced an excellent white paper on proper roles and responsibilities in the peer- review process [4]. Other professional reviewer training and responsibility recommendations are also available [5,6]


Common reviewer improprieties and misconduct listed by the Center for Science Publishing white paper [4] include:

  • Deliberate misrepresentation of facts in a review

  • Delaying the review process unreasonably for personal strategic gain. Exploiting confidential information to achieve personal or professional gain

  • Unfairly criticizing a competitor’s work

  • Breaching the confidentiality of the review

  • Proposing changes that appear to support the reviewer’s

  • Appropriating ideas or text from a manuscript under

  • Including personal or ad hominem criticism of the peer review process, such culling could drastically reduce

  • Failing to disclose a conflict of interest that would have excluded the reviewer from the process.



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