Peer reviewing, also known as refereeing, is a critical aspect of scholarly publishing, aimed at providing credibility, authenticity, and validity to journal articles. It is the process by which a manuscript or article undergoes multiple rounds of evaluation before publication by fellow researchers. This systematic scrutiny takes various forms, primarily distinguished by the extent to which the authors, reviewers, and editors are aware of each other’s identities. The objective of this process is to provide an unbiased and thorough assessment, ensuring the highest standards of academic quality.
1. Single-blind peer review
The first and most common type of peer review in scientific journals is the single-blind or single-anonymised review model. In this review format, the authors are unaware of the identities of the reviewers, who, in contrast, are aware of the authors’ identities. This method helps balance discretion and context. Most commonly used in the scientific and medical fields, this format allows reviewers to provide honest criticism without offending the authors. Additionally, it allows reviewers to leverage their knowledge of the authors’ previous works for contextual insight.
However, this model isn’t without drawbacks. In the recent past, this format has garnered negative feedback due to its association with intellectual theft. It permits reviewers to delay publication due to ulterior motives, either because they are working on a similar subject or aim to claim the idea as their own. Additionally, there is increased potential for harsh feedback or conscious or unconscious bias stemming from reviewer anonymity.
2. Double-blind peer review
In the double-blind model, both the authors’ and the reviewers’ identities remain anonymous. This format is used predominantly in the humanities and social sciences and seeks to eliminate the possibility of bias as the work is judged based on its quality and merit alone, without prejudice based on the authors’ identities and reputations.
Still, challenges exist. It is impossible to entirely safeguard against identifying the authors due to certain identity markers such as writing styles, subject matter, or previous research. Moreover, like in the single-blind model, the anonymity of this process can sometimes lead to overly harsh feedback.
3. Open review model
In open peer reviews, the identities of the authors and reviewers are revealed to each other. In addition, some accepted articles publish the reviewers’ reports alongside the published article for the reader to view. This transparency promotes accountability as well as improved quality of review as the identities of the reviewers may appear in the publication.
Yet, open reviews have their pitfalls as well. Some reviewers may refuse to work on certain articles or feel compelled to write partial reviews due to a fear of being held accountable for a negative review, especially when the research article was written or conducted by a senior or reputed researcher. This apprehension could undermine the honest and constructive nature of the review process.
4. Collaborative peer review
Within the collaborative review model, there are two primary formats that are followed. One involves iterative interactions between one or more reviewers and the authors to improve upon the paper until it reaches the required standard for publication. The second involves the combined work of two or more researchers who review and discuss the article, following which a unified report is submitted.
While collaborative reviews can expedite the editing process and provide diverse perspectives, they might compromise on the benefits of multiple evaluations as well as blur the lines between authorship and appraisal. Also, this process may be resource-intensive as it requires specialised software for the collaboration to take place smoothly and efficiently. This can also require additional time for maintenance and monitoring.
5. Post-publication review
In post-publication reviews, the evaluation progresses even after publication, allowing for ongoing revisions, comments, and discussions. This process does not replace or exclude other models of peer reviews, rather, it takes place in addition to them. Following publication, reviewers and readers are provided a platform or forum to add comments and feedback on the article. This format provides a wider range of perspectives as well as allows for continual improvements and changes with the evolution of the field.
However, based on the nature of the research, this model may attract unwanted attention and comments on controversial subjects. Sometimes, there may be a complete lack of reviews altogether. Additionally, there are risks associated with the publication of scientific material without prior thorough review, especially in fields such as medicine.
Conclusively, the peer review process takes on various forms, each with its unique advantages and challenges. However, they all aim to ensure the credibility and validity of the research conducted. By understanding and exploring these models, authors, reviewers, and readers can engage more effectively in the scholarly discourse, ultimately contributing to the advancement of knowledge in their respective fields.