Peer review: Troubled from the start

Alex Csiszar:

Referees are overworked. The problem of bias is intractable. The referee system has broken down and become an obstacle to scientific progress. Traditional refereeing is an antiquated form that might have been good for science in the past but it’s high time to put it out of its misery.

What is this familiar litany? It is a list of grievances aired by scientists a century ago.If complaining about the faults of referee systems is nothing new, such systems are not as old as historical accounts often claim. Investigators of nature communicated their findings without scientific referees for centuries. Deciding whom and what to trust usually depended on personal knowledge among close-knit groups of researchers. (Many might argue it still does.)