Academic publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. The process takes several relays between research writing and editing before you get to the finish line—publication.
Reaching the final stage often takes several months, and academic journals won’t publish just anything. This is why subjecting your paper to review from your peers who are experts in the same field is vital to encourage quality research that meets the high standards of your discipline. It also ensures that unwarranted claims and personal views do not go to publication without the scrutiny of an expert panel.
This process is called Peer Review.
Many academics criticised the integrity of peer review, but it is still considered the best form of scientific evaluation. In a 2019 survey by the Publishing Research Consortium, 85% of researchers agreed that “without peer review, there is no control in scientific communication.” And it’s not just the sciences; every discipline in academia benefits from the peer review process.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of the peer review process and how to publish a peer-reviewed article successfully.
What is Peer Review?
Peer review refers to a formal process where a board of scholarly reviewers scrutinise an article or an academic book in the same field. Peer review is always conducted before publication and is considered a standard practice in academia.
While it might seem that the peer review process involves circling spelling mistakes—it’s much more than that. When you send your research to peer reviewers, your article is screened by experts who will examine and challenge major assumptions and conclusions throughout. Reviewers may accept the work, suggest minor edits, or ask you to make major changes.
This process is designed to serve two primary purposes. First, it is used to ensure that a research study is:
Having confidence that the work meets the high expectations of academia is fundamental, because it filters out poorly conducted, inaccurate research. In many areas of academia, the research is used to inform public policies and government laws. As such, the repercussions can be serious if the data is flawed or misleading.
Another important reason for peer review is that it boosts your reputation and credibility as the author. When you have your work peer reviewed, readers now know that they can trust it more, because it’s been critiqued by other academics who are established and trustworthy.
A review by one’s peers is a well-recognised and long-standing appraisal method throughout all branches of academia, whether it be science, medicine, sports, literature, politics, and even the arts. The judgment of work by a pool of experts working in similar fields of study is the most rigorous and valuable form of recognition.
The peer-review process also determines funding and academic advancement in the scientific world, as most decisions are made based on publications that go through this process.
So, moving forward, how does peer review work?
Peer Review Process
After you’ve written your first manuscript, there are a few different paths your article can take.
For some academic journals, you may need to seek out peer reviewers yourself before submitting your article to their editor. Journals will then ask you to list the name of any other academics who’ve read your work when you submit it.
Other academic journals don’t require the article to be peer reviewed beforehand. When trying to publish your article, you submit your manuscript to the editor who decides if they want to publish it. If they accept it, then they will send your manuscript to their own peer reviewers after they decide to proceed with it. Scient Open Access is an example of an academic publisher that uses this process.
In either case, an expert panel of reviewers from the same field provide feedback and comments to improve the quality of the study. Then, the suggestions are reviewed and the author is usually asked for a revision.
Once you revise the manuscript, it’s then submitted or resubmitted to the journal. At that point, the journal editor considers the reviewers’ feedback and decides ultimately whether the study is suitable for publication.
As an author, however, you need to understand that peer reviewers are not fraud detectors. The peer review process is meant to validate and not verify the study. Instead, reviewers assess whether your research questions are straightforward and the methodology used is appropriate in answering such questions.
Getting your work peer reviewed will help you answer questions like:
- Is the study explained or detailed enough to be understood clearly that another researcher could replicate it?
- Does the study add value to the current body of knowledge on the topic?
- Does it meet the standards and scope of the journal to the organisation where you are submitting the research?
- Is there anything you might have missed, or another argument in your field you haven’t considered?
- How will other academics receive your work?
After completing the peer review process, ideally, the research will have more credibility.
Another thing to note is that the peer review process does not just apply to academic journals. It is also essential and used in publishing academic books.
Peer reviews are important for academic books because they allow editors and publishers to have confidence in the work before it’s used to teach future students. In addition, a Commissioning Editor might not be knowledgeable about all areas of scholarship. Because of this, it’s always good to have other experts weigh in on whether or not your academic book is worth pursuing before putting time into developing content.
The peer review process in academic books is similar to the method used with academic journals.
Types of Peer Review
Peer review has no singular process and is highly variable among academic journals. There are, however, three main types of peer review:
In a single-blind review, the reviewers are aware of the author’s identity, while the reviewers’ identities are anonymous. It is a conventional method of peer review.
Single-blind peer review is supposed to address the problems that result from open reviews by protecting reviewers from the fear of offending authors. However, this form also has drawbacks. For example, a reviewer may be overly harsh or critical due to anonymity and lack of accountability.
An example of a journal that uses single-blind review is the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). NEJM maintains a database with more than 30,000 peer reviewers worldwide in all areas of medicine. They use this process to improve research reports and prevent overstated results from reaching physicians and consumers.
A double-blind review is when neither the author nor the reviewers have any information about each other’s identities. All identifying information is removed from a scholarly submission before it’s given to a reviewer. Reviewers are selected because of their expertise in the same field.
In this type of peer review, reviewers can critique a paper based on its quality alone, eliminating biases that come with the author’s identity.
An example of a journal that uses double-blind peer review is the Australian Journal of Primary Health. Together with their Editorial Board and Panel, the journal’s Editors-in-Chief are responsible for maintaining every article’s quality. Moreover, they also ensure that the review process is fair and meets the highest academic publishing standards.
Contrary to the other two, open peer review means that both the author and reviewers know each other’s identity. This type is often referred to as a progressive or alternative approach to peer review.
Receiving feedback from the community is a meaningful way to improve as a reviewer. With this open system, reviewers will be more invested in their work and take responsibility for it without fear of repercussions or being penalised for not receiving future review requests.
In an open review, the broader community of the same field experts can contribute to the review process. Moreover, it opens opportunities for reviewers and authors to communicate directly about the study.
An example of a journal that uses an open review is the British Medical Journal. They provide access to all of their articles for an open review to publish original, significant, and reliable articles or reports that can help improve overall healthcare outcomes.
Why is Peer Review Important?
Peer reviewing is a time-consuming process for both authors and reviewers. Moreover, peer reviewers are typically not paid in conducting reviews, and the process takes considerable effort. But there are other pros and cons to the peer review process:
Advantages of Peer Reviewing
Peer reviewing has many advantages that make it worthwhile. Some of its benefits are as follows:
Importance to Authors
Peer review does not only filter out flawed research, but improves its overall clarity and quality. It helps authors submit a project that is more polished and with more credibility.
Importance to the Scientific Community and Readers
By conducting peer review in the scientific community, researchers continue to uphold the quality, integrity, and significance of the literature and advance the scientific knowledge database. Beyond that, readers will have more confidence in scientific journals when they know the work has already been vetted by fellow reviewers who have expertise within that field.
Importance to Governments and Responsible Authorities
Finally, peer-reviewed journals are not only valuable to researchers and academics. Scientific research has a far-reaching impact on society, including social sciences, government policies, and various industries. All these areas rely heavily on high-quality research, which is why peer review plays such an integral role in the process.
Ensuring that a study underwent a thorough review is essential to the government as it’s crucial they create evidence-based policies.
These advantages are why peer review is vital to journal articles and scholarly journals.
Challenges in Peer Review
The peer review process also has its drawbacks. More than just the process being time-consuming, it is also heavily criticised sometimes, because of the following issues:
Bias in peer review is a real problem. With the lack of definite rules for reviewing, reviewers will likely comment and suggest based on their research interests or several other reasons, such as personal beliefs. Many studies show that women and minorities are less likely to get published, funded, or promoted because they are judged based on their identity and not on the quality of their papers.
This kind of bias can be conscious or unconscious, but it significantly affects the authors’ chances of getting published or obtaining funding opportunities down the road.
Each reviewer will have their specific method of ensuring the quality of a study. No two expert reviewers have the same advice or suggestions to improve a study. This means that the author can have conflicting messages from the reviewers.
Selecting peer reviewers whose expertise aligns with your publication is crucial as they ensure the quality of your research. However, it is a lengthy process, especially since most peer reviewers are typically unpaid, and the process takes considerable effort. Moreover, it is also dependent on whether reviewers submit their reviews promptly.
The longer a review takes, the more it is frustrating for the author because by the time they publish their article, it may no longer be relevant.
Scholars have discussed these issues for decades, but they have not found any more effective method despite these challenges. However, the strengths of peer review outweigh its weaknesses.
If you’re still wondering how to publish a peer-reviewed article in an efficient and timely manner, then the answer is to use the right tools that allow you to write and publish in the fastest way possible, like Flowcite.
Flowcite: Your Best Peer
As mentioned, peer review is a vital part of the publishing process. And unfortunately, it’s also quite time-consuming—but it doesn’t have to be. With Flowcite, you don’t need to wait for months for journals to submit their peer-review feedback on your research or academic books.
Powered by Enago, our platform includes a premium paper review service, which will provide a professional and subject-specific review of your paper in as fast as one week. Our pool of subject experts have vast experience in reviewing manuscripts for top international journals such as Science, Cell, and PNAS. This means they’ll ensure your work gets seen by an appropriate audience of scholars. Experts will review your article in all aspects with a comprehensive report and conduct a thorough check on journal compatibility to reduce your study’s chances of rejection.
All you need to do is submit your manuscript, then our experts will create a synopsis and turn your study into a high-quality, attractive, and informative product.
At Flowcite, we won’t just peer review your study, but we’ll also improve your overall research through innovative solutions for the whole research and publication process. Some other beneficial features include:
- Access to a broad scope of organisation tools that organise and synchronise your workflow seamlessly
- The Flowcite Library, which lets you access all your documents and resources in one place
- Integrated proofreading, peer review, and publishing services to ensure that your research meets the highest standards and is ready for publication
- AI-supported workflow to help you get the most relevant and accurate results instantly, making your research process faster and more effective
By using Flowcite, you can be more efficient and reduce the time it takes to publish your study or academic book. Moreover, our service enables you to focus on improving your research without the hassle of all the administrative tasks involved in the research process.
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- Book Peer Review: What It Means and Why It’s Important (wiley.com)
- Peer-review and publication does not guarantee reliable information – Students 4 Best Evidence (cochrane.org)
- 2.3 Reviewer Roles and Responsibilities – Council of Science Editors (councilscienceeditors.org)
- What is peer review? (elsevier.com)
- Peer Review in Scientific Publications: Benefits, Critiques, & A Survival Guide (nih.gov)
- What is open peer review? A systematic review (nih.gov)
- What’s peer review? 5 things you should know before covering research (journalistsresource.org)
- (277) What is Peer Review? – YouTube
- Peer review in scholarly publishing part A: why do it? : IJS Oncology (lww.com)
Content Marketing Strategist
Brittany is a Content Marketing Strategist at Flowcite, and an outstanding academic writing expert. She holds a first-class Honours degree in Literae Humaniores from the University of Oxford and has been certified in Digital Marketing Analytics by the MIT Sloan School of Management.