Peer Review in Academia
One of the ways to establish quality of scientific articles, as well as ensure their credibility is peer review method. From the first glance, it is definitely the case that peer review improves the quality of research articles, and perhaps even controls for fairness and clear thought expression . However, some of the pitfalls of the process may make it less constructive and helpful, and generally slow down the research as well as de-motivate the researchers.
The purpose of a good peer review is to provide constructive and informative feedback on how a paper could be improved and modified in order to meet its potential. This requires attention, project understanding, and clear vision of what’s under the spotlight. In its turn, this takes time and thought. Some may even suggest that a reviewer becomes an unacknowledged secondary author of the paper. But most of the time, reviews seem to be focused on deficiencies and problems of the current research, without any elaborations or suggestions for improvement. There may be cases of being snooty or contemptuous to the original author of the paper in some way. In my opinion, this is not what a good peer review should be based on, being a by-product of what reviewers are rewarded for (usually quite inadequately).
Why does it happen then? Fact 1: if you publish a paper, you move up your academic career. Fact 2: You don’t move anywhere for the peer review, and it is by default anonymous. Combine the two and add some human factor to the recipe – simple peer envy – and the result follows. Moreover, researchers seem to lack 100% confidence in their work as the matter of fact. So how can they boot it? Yes, by criticising other’s works and achievements.
Another issue may be lack of practise in peer reviewing, and unawareness of how the things are done. Here is an example to illustrate the point I am making here, form the reflection of Jenna Baddeley, US psychologist:
“Early in my graduate school career, I was asked to write a review for a manuscript that I viewed as deeply flawed. My first draft of the review was scathing. When I showed it to my advisor, he told me, “I don’t care if the paper is a steaming turd. You still have to treat the authors with compassion. Start off with the good qualities of the paper. Can you imagine any way that they could turn the paper around so that it could be published?”
The humanity of his advice is obvious here, and I guess it is something that one should and I remember reviewing papers. In academia, life is hard enough, so for the sake of one’s well-being and for the better science in general, researchers should be kind to each other and show fair treatment and deserved acknowledgement.