Letter: The meaning of ‘peer review’
The term “peer review” is being used in the media as proof a publication is scientifically sound. This is not necessarily so.
Peer review is simply having someone that is deemed qualified look over a manuscript. It’s not so much that a manuscript has been reviewed; it’s more a matter of where the manuscript is published.
In-house peer review and publication potentially produce the most biased articles and may be viewed as being less than rigorous. Review and publication of an in-house article is done entirely within an organization. An example may be a quarterly report in a publication that is distributed only within an organization.
Publication in a refereed journal is quite a different matter. The publication process begins with an in-house review of the manuscript. Next the manuscript is sent to the editor of an appropriate journal. If the editor thinks the manuscript has merit, it is sent to (usually) two anonymous reviewers. Based largely on the anonymous reviews the editor will decide to either accept the manuscript for publication, with or without revision, or to reject the manuscript. If the manuscript is accepted with revision it goes back to the author(s) and is revised per the suggestions made by the editor and anonymous reviewers. The manuscript is returned to the editor for final inspection and then, and only then, is it accepted for publication.
Refereed journals are more dependable than in-house publications because of their more extensive review process and wider distribution. Most science journals are refereed, and it is in these journals that the best work is published.
Because my wife peer-reviewed this letter, and because I mentioned science, I can now add a peer-reviewed scientific publication to my resume.
John Jenkins, Ph.D.
Grand Junction, Colo.
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