Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry

Article excerpt

Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry David Shatz. Lanhan, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. 249 pp. $75.00 (hb) 27.95 (pb).

Peer review is the single most important aspect of scholarly publishing, at least so we are led to believe. In the past, it was taken as a given. During the past two decades, some scholars have begun to question its necessity and validity, and a body of scholarship has developed based on research, unusual experiments, and conferences, such as those held by the American Medical Association. It is therefore astonishing that David Shatz's volume is the first philosophical analysis of peer review and its utility.

Peer review controls quality, eliminates error, and reaches for the truth, but it does its tasks poorly and at the expense of innovative contributions. It also increases inordinately the time between submission and publication and it offers referees the opportunity to fudge, dissemble, and steal. The resulting published papers, despite the caustic, hypercritical, or arbitrary nature of the referees' comments, "are often grossly flawed." Its defenders insist that despite its inadequacies, it is the only way to control quality. In reality, it serves the egos of authors and academic administrators who can indicate on vita and elsewhere that publications have appeared in prestigious peer reviewed journals. …

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