Peer review

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Peer review is a method for evaluating the scientific quality of a piece of information. In peer review a number of people that can be considered as reasonably acquainted with the topic that the piece of information addresses give their statement whether or not the piece of information is of good enough quality for publication in a scientific journal.

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Most often peer review is considered in the context of publishing scientific articles that tend to be descriptions of scientific studies and their results. Peer review can also used as a means of controlling quality of assessments and their outputs. Basically peer review is actually about acceptability of the process of producing information, and thereby also acceptability of the outcomes of that process. However, peer review is usually not a systematic method, but rather a practice that builds on the assumption that peers can implicitly identify good works from bad ones based on their own expertise. Consequently peer review also often ends up addressing also questions of e.g. usability and relevance, in a relatively random fashion. Despite its shortcomings, peer review does have value in quality control, also in the context of assessment.

Technically the peer review can be done so that any piece of information is set available for peers to access and evaluate, and anyone who feels qualified to evaluate a given piece of information can go ahead and give her statement about its quality. The pieces of information can be assessments, or individual variables, or studies of any kind. The statement basically is whether the evaluator thinks that the piece of information is or is not of good enough quality that it could be published in a scientific journal. The levels of evaluation can then be e.g. 1) not reviewed, 2) reviewed, but not accepted, 3) reviewed and accepted. The amount of required acceptance statements can be agreed according to what is seen suitable for the system to be flexible, but still credible. Perhaps two or three, as in many scientific journals, is enough.

Peer review in Opasnet - an example of an open web-based review system

Basically, Opasnet is applying an open peer review process in its widest sense. It means that anyone can make a peer review about anything. However, a peer review is worthless unless the readers believe that the reviewer actually is a peer, which means a person who has enough relevant expertise, usually a fellow researcher. Therefore, the following guidance is advised:

  • If you need the information of a page in your assessment or other work and the page has not been reviewed yet, you should consider reviewing the page yourself before using it. Or, if you don't feel qualified, you should put some effort in finding a person who could review the page. This way, you increase the credibility of your own work, and you also help the Open Assessors' Network to evaluate and improve the contents of Opasnet.
  • You can peer review a page in Opasnet, if you have a credible record of expertise in the area of the page. It is advised that reviewers put enough information about this on their user page (maybe a brief curriculum vitae and a list of publications).
  • You should not be a major contributor of the page you review, i.e. you should not be one of those who have brought a substantive amount of scientific material to the page. Technical and linguistic edits can be done without limitation.
    • The roles of each contributor are clarified in the Acknowledgements of the page.

Research: Increasing value, reducing waste

Increasing value, reducing waste is a special issue in Lancet focussing on how to improve research and the evaluation processes of scientific work. It was published January 8, 2014.[2]

The Lancet presents a Series of five papers about research. In the first report Iain Chalmers et al discuss how decisions about which research to fund should be based on issues relevant to users of research. Next, John Ioannidis et al consider improvements in the appropriateness of research design, methods, and analysis. Rustam Al-Shahi Salman et al then turn to issues of efficient research regulation and management. Next, An-Wen Chan et al examine the role of fully accessible research information. Finally, Paul Glasziou et al discuss the importance of unbiased and usable research reports. These papers set out some of the most pressing issues, recommend how to increase value and reduce waste in biomedical research, and propose metrics for stakeholders to monitor the implementation of these recommendations.

  • Sabine Kleinert, Richard Horton. How should medical science change? [3]
  • Malcolm R Macleod, Susan Michie, Ian Roberts, Ulrich Dirnagl, Iain Chalmers, John P A Ioannidis, Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, An-Wen Chan, Paul Glasziou. Biomedical research: increasing value, reducing waste. The Lancet, Volume 383, Issue 9912, Pages 101 - 104, 11 January 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62329-6 [4]
  • Iain Chalmers, Michael B Bracken, Ben Djulbegovic, Silvio Garattini, Jonathan Grant, A Metin Gülmezoglu, David W Howells, John P A Ioannidis, Sandy Oliver. How to increase value and reduce waste when research priorities are set. The Lancet, Volume 383, Issue 9912, Pages 156 - 165, 11 January 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62229-1 [5]
  • John P A Ioannidis, Sander Greenland, Mark A Hlatky, Muin J Khoury, Malcolm R Macleod, David Moher, Kenneth F Schulz, Robert Tibshirani. Increasing value and reducing waste in research design, conduct, and analysis. The Lancet, Volume 383, Issue 9912, Pages 166 - 175, 11 January 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62227-8 [6]
  • Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, Elaine Beller, Jonathan Kagan, Elina Hemminki, Robert S Phillips, Julian Savulescu, Malcolm Macleod, Janet Wisely, Iain Chalmers. Increasing value and reducing waste in biomedical research regulation and management. The Lancet, Volume 383, Issue 9912, Pages 176 - 185, 11 January 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62297-7 [7]
  • An-Wen Chan, Fujian Song, Andrew Vickers, Tom Jeff erson, Kay Dickersin, Peter C Gøtzsche, Harlan M Krumholz, Davina Ghersi,H Bart van der Worp. Increasing value and reducing waste: addressing inaccessible research. The Lancet, Volume 383, Issue 9913, Pages 257 - 266, 18 January 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62296-5 [8]
  • Paul Glasziou, Douglas G Altman, Patrick Bossuyt, Isabelle Boutron, Mike Clarke, Steven Julious, Susan Michie, David Moher, Elizabeth Wager. Reducing waste from incomplete or unusable reports of biomedical research. The Lancet, Volume 383, Issue 9913, Pages 267 - 276, 18 January 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62228-X [9]


See also