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Shortcomings of peer review in biomedical journals

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Peer review is well established across most academic disciplines, and publishers, editors, and researchers devote considerable resources to it. This paper uses examples from biomedical journals to examine its shortcomings. Although mainly anecdotal, the evidence suggests that peer review is sometimes ineffective at identifying important research and even less effective at detecting fraud. Most reviewers identify only the minority of a paper's defects and they may be biased. Peer review plus other editorial processes are associated with improvements in papers between submission and publication, but published papers remain hard to read and a significant proportion contain errors or omissions. While it is hard to quantify the costs, peer review does not seem an efficient use of resources. Research into the outcomes of peer review, the establishment of sound methods for measuring the quality of the process and its outcomes, and comparisons with alternative methods are needed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2001

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  • Editor in Chief: Pippa Smart
    North American Editor: Judy Luther

    Learned Publishing is the journal of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, published in collaboration with the Society for Scholarly Publishing. The journal is published quarterly in January/April/July/October.

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    Learned Publishing will be moving to Wiley-Blackwell as of January 1, 2016. Please contact the publisher at for information on how to continue access to this title.

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