Thursday, May 19, 2011

UK Inquiry into Peer Review

On 27th January 2011 the UK House of Commons Science & Technology Committee announced that it planned to hold an inquiry into peer review. That inquiry is now underway. Below are some links to the first public event held to take oral evidence. (Click here for details of the second public event). 

The terms of reference for the inquiry are the following: 

The Committee welcomes submissions on all aspect of the process and among the issues it is likely to examine are the following:
  1. the strengths and weaknesses of peer review as a quality control mechanism for scientists, publishers and the public;
  2. measures to strengthen peer review;
  3. the value and use of peer reviewed science on advancing and testing scientific knowledge;
  4. the value and use of peer reviewed science in informing public debate;
  5. the extent to which peer review varies between scientific disciplines and between countries across the world;
  6. the processes by which reviewers with the requisite skills and knowledge are identified, in particular as the volume of multi-disciplinary research increases;
  7. the impact of IT and greater use of online resources on the peer review process; and
  8. possible alternatives to peer review.
The first public event took place on May 4th, with oral evidence being given by a number of experts, including:
  • Dr Nicola Gulley, Editorial Director, Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd
  • Professor Ronald Laskey CBE FRS FMedSci, Vice-President, Academy of Medical Sciences
  • Dr Robert Parker, Interim Chief Executive, Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Professor John Pethica FRS, Physical Secretary and Vice-President, Royal Society
The opening question from the chair of the Committee, Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, was: 

Q: Peer review is perceived to be "fundamental to scholarly communications". If it disappeared tomorrow, what would the consequences be? 

The first reply, from Dr Robert Parker, was: 

A: You would have to come up with something else with which to replace it. There isn’t anything very obvious to replace peer review with currently. The danger would be to the scientific record, really. The importance of it is laid out in the evidence that has been submitted with great clarity from most people who have submitted evidence in writing to this review. The value and quality of that scientific record is paramount, and peer review helps to keep that in place. 

The written evidence Dr Parker refers to can be read here.

The (uncorrected) transcript of the meeting is available here.

A video of the event is available here, or can be viewed below.

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