Evidence for Peer Review Collapse

Philip David in his Scholarly Kitchen post asks the important question ‘Is peer review in decline?”. He cites Glenn Ellison, an economist from MIT, whose paper from 2007 has the same title. In the abstract Glenn claims:

Several observations are consistent with the hypothesis that the Internet improves the ability of high-profile authors to disseminate their research without going through the traditional peer-review process.

Philip points out that Glenn proffers a couple of theories to explain this:

1. The Internet has allowed the certification and dissemination functions of journals to be disaggregated, permitting other services (like preprint and working paper servers), and networked search tools (like Google Scholar), to perform the function of disseminating research findings.

2. Any economist will tell you that it is taking more time to get your work published in a top-economics journal.  Submission to publication may take years in many cases, and reviewers are more eager to require multiple revisions from the authors. For those economists who have already built a reputation, the benefits of going through the certification process may not be worth the effort, at least not for all of their work.

The lower the submission rate to top journals the lower the number of peer reviewers and the longer the review process. It is no surprise that Glenn’s paper is not published in a journal!

As a strong advocate of rapid open access publishing I am hoping that other disciplines including my own will follow this trend.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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