Peer Review---does it work?

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Tue Nov 12 17:37:56 EST 2002

I subscribe to what has been said about peer-reviewed publication. But with two

1.  reviewers only know so much and with complex papers, two or even three or now
even four reviewers may not know enough to criticize a method.

For instance two recent reviews of one of our papers, paid no attention to the
complex analytic methodology, apparently taking it for granted that we knew what we
were talking about and that the quality assurance methods worked.  One hit heavily
on the statistical methodology wanting to know why we used non-parametric statistics
instead of log-transformed.

So lots of mis-information can get by without anyone doing anything wrong.  The
system simply has imperfections, and for some journals the imperfections run to very
long review times----a year to get back your manuscript for revision and another
year to see it published (assuming you still remember what you wanted to say a year

2.  Some reviewers are simply very aggressive and believe their job is to police the
literature (editors like this because it helps them reject papers when they get too
many, often three times as many as they can publish).  Good journals have acceptance
rates of less than 50% (some down to 10%). Therefore aggressive reviewing is deemed
necessary.  It often, however, excludes papers that intrude on the reviewers domain
and it often excludes non-orthodox opinions and findings.

But, the system plods along.  About 15 years ago, I predicted that by 2000, hard
copy journals would have greatly declined with many transferring only to electronic
form.  The technology moved faster than I expected in terms of transmitting
graphics, band width etc, but there are still journals out there with more and more
coming along each day.  Still it's a pleasure to be able to click on an icon and see
a paper complete with color graphics appear on your screen.



   For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit: 

More information about the Leps-l mailing list