by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Adam Ellwanger writes for the Martin Center about problems plaguing the academic peer review process.
Academics are growing wary of the peer review process amid mounting evidence that it is compromised by ideological biases and that it does not effectively or reliably ensure the quality of published research. Further, it is increasingly evident that the academic publishing industry’s primary reason for being is not to disseminate new knowledge to the public, but rather to serve as a bureaucratic metric for professional advancement. While the failure of the traditional peer review process might seem to justify pessimism on the part of scholars, the good news is that some academics are reimagining how academic publishing can work.
Recently, I had a chance to talk to two professors who have developed an alternative to the corrupted process of peer review. Dr. Harry Crane (Professor of Statistics at Rutgers) and Dr. Ryan Martin (Professor of Statistics at North Carolina State University) are the founders of Researchers.One, an online platform that allows scholars to publish new research and facilitates a critical dialogue to refine new scholarship. Our conversation addressed some of the shortcomings of the peer review process as it currently exists, and we discussed how the Researchers.One platform not only restores the most important functions of academic publishing, but also how it returns the ownership of intellectual property to the scholars themselves. …
… Ryan Martin (RM): It helps to step back and think about the origin of the peer review process. The initial idea was that it was difficult to communicate these scientific developments, and so some kind of centralized type of organization was necessary to disseminate these ideas. But recently, a positive judgment from peer reviewers is thought of as an objective indicator of quality. And that’s not necessarily true.
Today, the bestowal of this mark of quality has become the primary role of the peer review process. But this creates a disincentive, especially for junior folks, to try to branch out and develop genuinely new ideas.