Peer review for biomedical publications: we can improve the system

BMC Med. 2014 Sep 26;12:179. doi: 10.1186/s12916-014-0179-1.


The lack of formal training programs for peer reviewers places the scientific quality of biomedical publications at risk, as the introduction of 'hidden' bias may not be easily recognized by the reader. The exponential increase in the number of manuscripts submitted for publication worldwide, estimated in the millions annually, overburdens the capability of available qualified referees. Indeed, the workload imposed on individual reviewers appears to be reaching a 'breaking point' that may no longer be sustainable. Some journals have made efforts to improve peer review via structured guidelines, courses for referees, and employing biostatisticians to ensure appropriate study design and analyses. Further strategies designed to incentivize and reward peer review work include journals providing continuing medical education (CME) credits to individual referees by defined criteria for timely and high-quality evaluations. Alternative options to supplement the current peer review process consist of 'post-publication peer review,' 'decoupled peer review,' 'collaborative peer review,' and 'portable peer review'. This article outlines the shortcomings and flaws in the current peer review system and discusses new innovative options on the horizon.

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Humans
  • Peer Review, Research / standards*
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Publishing / standards*
  • Research Design / standards