Council of Science Editors
Peer review is the principal mechanism by which the quality of research is judged. Most funding decisions in science and the academic advancement of scientists are based on peer-reviewed publications. Because the number of scientific articles published each year continues to grow, the quality of the peer-review process and the quality of the editorial board are cited as primary influences on a journal’s reputation, impact factor, and standing in the field. Scientific journals publishing peer-reviewed articles depend heavily on the scientific referees or reviewers who typically volunteer their time and expertise. In most circumstances, at least 2 reviewers are solicited to evaluate a manuscript; some journals request 3 reviews. This may be required in situations where review by a statistician is needed. In cases of controversy or strong disagreement regarding the merits of the work, an additional review may also be solicited or one of the journal’s editors might give an evaluation. More than 3 reviewers are sometimes used if reviewers from several fields are needed to obtain a thorough evaluation of a paper. In addition to fairness in judgment and expertise in the field, peer reviewers have significant responsibilities toward authors, editors, and readers.