Fixing Academic Peer Review | National Review

Fixing Academic Peer Review | National Review

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Like so much of the academic world, the peer-review process has become corrupt, ineffective, and dysfunctional. Fortunately, there is a solution. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Adam Ellwanger interviews two statistics professors, Ryan Martin of NC State and Harry Crane of Rutgers, about Researchers.One, which, Ellwanger writes, “invites scholars of all disciplines to use its platform to publish their scholarship without the middleman.”

Martin says, “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. So, it’s kind of like these mob movies like Goodfellas and Casino: the strategy to be successful in a world like that is to keep your head down and stay in line. That also happens in the academic world.”

Crane adds, “Peer-reviewed research is referenced all the time as evidence that a published claim is true. If something was peer reviewed, then that means it’s been vetted, so people assume it must be true. But that’s not actually what peer review does. In reality, peer-review is a purely administrative process that allows people to rise up the academic ladder. Whatever scholarly purpose it serves is secondary. That’s why we started Researchers.One.”

Researchers.One allows any scholar to upload his or her research, where it is available for anyone to read and comment on — except that anonymous comments are not allowed. Authors can respond to criticism. Real debate over the merits of the work ensues.

Why is that better? Martin explains: “The typical style of peer-review relies on the subjective assessment of two or three anonymous reviewers. From our perspective, that judgment is better left to a broader community of scholars that help one another refine and test the work that’s been done. That’s not something any individual viewer or an editorial board can do. ”

Let’s hope that Researchers.One catches on. The way the peer-review process currently functions, it’s too easy for hostile reviewers to suppress good research, and too easy for bad but politically correct research to gain unearned praise and acceptance.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.