Category Archives: Peer Review

Should reviewers be expected to review supporting datasets and code?

by John Helliwell, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry University of Manchester and DSc Physics University of York (@HelliwellJohn)


For the meeting entitled “Transparency, Reward, and Innovation in Peer Review in the Life Sciences” to be held on Feb. 7-9, 2018 at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland ( I have been asked by The Wellcome Trust to open the discussion on the question in my title.

In my view peer reviewing research article submissions to journals is arguably one of the most important roles we scientists play.  Through this process we seek to improve the research of our peers, highlighting errors and omissions and work to ensure that scientifically flawed research does not get published.  To perform this work effectively however – especially in our new data-driven age – it is crucial that peer reviewers are given unfettered access to the data and code underlying the research we are reviewing.  Unfortunately, while many journals provide access to this data after an article’s publication,* most journals do not provide access to this material during the refereeing process, making it almost impossible to perform an effective peer review function.

In this blog post I will discuss why peer review of the  underpinning data of a research article is important – using examples from the my field of crystallography – and outline some steps which funders and publishers could take to implement peer review of data.  Continue reading

Should scientists receive credit for peer review?

by Stephen Curry, Professor of Structural Biology, Imperial College (@Stephen_Curry)

As the song goes – and I have in mind the Beatles’ 1963 cover version of Money (that’s all I want) – “the best things in life are free.” But is peer review one of them? The freely given service that many scientists provide as validation and quality control of research papers submitted for publication has its critics. Richard Smith, who served as the editor of the British Medical Journal from 1991 to 2004, considered peer review to be “ineffective, largely a lottery, anti-innovatory, slow, expensive, wasteful of scientific time, inefficient, easily abused, prone to bias, unable to detect fraud and irrelevant.” Although my own experience, and that of many colleagues, is that peer review mostly provides valuable clarification and polishing of submitted manuscripts, Smith is worth listening to because there are growing concerns about the inability of peer review to provide a sufficient test of the integrity of the scientific record. That trend should worry everyone involved in scholarly publication. Continue reading