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Year : 2002  |  Volume : 50  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 79

Peer review in health sciences

Correspondence Address:
T Das

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 12194582

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How to cite this article:
Das T. Peer review in health sciences. Indian J Ophthalmol 2002;50:79

How to cite this URL:
Das T. Peer review in health sciences. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2002 [cited 2020 Oct 20];50:79. Available from: https://www.ijo.in/text.asp?2002/50/2/79/14795

Editing a journal is about making choices. To pretend otherwise is to deny the very function of the journal. Journals add value to the scientific enterprise by selecting this paper and not that, by asking authors to emphasize these data and omit those, by shortening here and expanding there. These choices reflect the values of the journal, and aim to filter and shape material in order to advance science and to meet the readers' needs. Not long ago, however, researchers researched what fascinated them the most, and publishers published what they considered worthy of publication. This was a world without coordination between researchers and publishers. This was a world without peer review. This was a world where science was sheer passion. Science has moved from case histories to randomized control trials; this welcome development has brought science into medicine.

With the increasing complexity of science, peer review has become very important. Today, use of experts or peers to help judge the value of the submitted work is ubiquitous. It helps decide the relevance and merits of submitted manuscripts, and decide changes before publication. Yet, institutionalized and systematic peer review is only six decades old. It gained prominence during or after the Second World War, and since then peer review has gained immense importance for all indexed journals. Editorial peer review is generally regarded as an essential step prior to biomedical publication. Prominent journals owe much of their prestige to the fact that readers are aware that the editors take trouble to ensure such critical review.

All journals that use peer reviewers have a similar system with minor variations. The editor scrutinizes the submitted manuscripts. Manuscripts not relevant to the journal, the time period, or the readers are usually returned to the authors without further processing. A decision is taken for the remaining manuscripts to seek advice from one or more external reviewers. Once the reviewer's opinions are obtained, the manuscript goes through an evaluation process; editors make the decision either on their own or with the help of a committee to reject the submission, or accept it, possibly with some revision. If the decision is to offer publication of a revised paper, (following approval of the second review process) it enters an editing /production cycle. Thus seeking a revision does not imply acceptance; it is only an expression of interest on part of the journal.

Peer review has certain inherent deficiencies. It is expensive, slow, subjective and biased. It is also open to abuse, and usually cannot detect fraud and misconduct. Editors impose their personalities and opinions on their journals; this to some extent, however, is their job. Despite the criticisms and the recent debates on the merits of the peer review system, a certain amount of peer pressure has to stay for the greater benefit of science. Science works best in an environment of unrestrained criticism, and institutionalized criticism is one of the glories of science.

We believe that all participants benefit from the review process. Authors receive advice from other scholars in their field. Reviewing is considered part of the initiation process for the young reviewers who aspire to be successful future researchers. More experienced reviewers value the opportunity to see new work before it is published. All reviewers are likely to improve their critical appraisal skills by putting themselves in a position where they must examine a research report in depth. It further helps the reviewers when they receive the comments of other reviewers and editors who have examined the same manuscript carefully.

We have always believed that peer review provides prompt, detailed, constructive and well-founded criticism, to the benefit of researchers and consumers of research. Over the years the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology has established a good peer review system. The journal currently uses the services of 107 national and international reviewers. Each manuscript is carefully scrutinized before the final decision is made. Peer review is a short hand for fairness and objectivity. We are convinced; this is one sure way of improving science in the world.


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