Peer and present dangers (2 of 3)

September 20, 2012

"Peer pressure" struck a chord with me. While colleagues in the academy increasingly find themselves with diverse and complex workloads to manage, professionalism and respect for peers should constitute a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of devoting the necessary time and effort when agreeing to undertake peer review.

A major issue with the process is the negativity of some referees towards research with null results or marginal improvements as outcomes, despite the employment of methodologically sound science. As any good tutor of research methods knows, negative results are just as valuable to the investigative process as positive ones. This was perhaps best summed up by a colleague who told me: "If we're doing experiments and getting it right every time, then we're either implausibly lucky or we're doing something wrong."

Such transparency is crucial in ensuring that research time is not wasted reinventing the wheel, but instead deepens and expands understanding of our subject. Without such articles being published in mainstream sources, how else will the research community accurately know what others are doing in the field and where the boundaries of knowledge lie?

To realise these enhancements, journal publishers and editors need to make their expectations of referees clear and must provide appropriate mechanisms and support for those who may need guidance.

Stuart Cunningham, Glyndwr University

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