Re: Peer Review Reform Hypothesis-Testing

From: Sally Morris <>
Date: Mon, 26 May 2003 10:53:23 +0100

There are no published standards [for peer review] at the moment. However,
the European Association and Science Editors and the Association of
Learned and Professional Society Publishers are collaborating to produce
a handbook of guidelines to good practice in the conduct of peer review -
this will be published next year

Stevan, please forward this to your anonymous correspondent - thanks
    [done -- SH]

Sally Morris, Secretary-General
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
South House, The Street, Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3UU, UK

Phone: 01903 871686 Fax: 01903 871457 E-mail:
ALPSP Website

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stevan Harnad" <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 9:03 PM
Subject: Re: Peer Review Reform Hypothesis-Testing

> On Wed, 21 May 2003 [identity deleted] wrote:
> > [I have been asked] to find some information on International
> > Peer Review standards. Having read your article I
> > thought you would have some information. Would you point me
> > in the right direction to any standards information please?
> I'm afraid there is no answer to your question because the question
> is based on a misconception of (research journal) peer review. Peer
> review is merely qualified experts evaluating the quality of the work
> of fellow experts. The evaluation is meant to give expert feedback on
> things that need to be fixed and then, if the fixing is successful, to
> certify the work as having met the quality standards of the journal in
> question. Journals differ in their quality standards; there is a hierarchy
> of them, from those with the highest standards (usually, but not always,
> reflected by their rejection rates and impact factors) in their field at
> the top, grading all the way down to almost a vanity press at the bottom.
> No one can explicitly formalize the quality standards of each journal at
> each level, any more than one can say in advance for a jury exactly what
> features make someone guilty or not guilty of a crime. In both jury duty
> and peer review there are criteria: base your judgment on evidence,
> not hearsay or opinion, do not be swayed by prejudice, etc. In the case
> of peer review there is rather more that one could say by way of general
> scientific and scholarly criteria, but it still always comes down to a
> matter of human judgment: qualified expert judgment, one hopes, and
> answerable to the meta-judgment of a qualified expert editor.
> Some journals consult one referee, some consult many; some give long
> criterial check-lists, some just ask for judgments as to soundness,
> originality, importance and comprehensibility. But what standards there
> are are those of the domain of expertise in question, be it cancer
> research or postmodernism -- and how reliably and responsibly the editor
> sees to it that they are adhered to, in choosing qualified, unbiassed
> referees, and adjudicating which of their recommendations the author
> must meet in revisision, and hence when the revision has successfully
> met that journal's standards. That is what a journal's track-record
> attests to. Otherwise, there are no "peer review standards,"
> international or otherwise, for research journal peer review.
> (About peer review in professional practise I have no knowledge
> at all.)
> Harnad, S. (1998/2000) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature
> [online] (5 Nov. 1998)
> Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon May 26 2003 - 10:53:23 BST

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