The Role of Peer Review in the Scientific Process

Psychology, in common with all scientific subjects, develops its knowledge base through conducting research and sharing the findings of such research with other scientists. Peer review is an essential part of this process and scientific quality is judged by it. It is in the interest of all scientists that their work is held up for scrutiny and that any work that is flawed or downright fraudulent is detected and its results ignored.

Why is Peer Review so Important?

In order to remember the answer to this question, it is good to use the mnemonic ‘People Make Very Interesting Statements!’

(1) People — Prevent Plagiarism: Psychologists/Scientists carrying out a peer review can make sure that the work due to be published isn’t simply a regurgitation of work that has been published previously by other Psychologists or Scientists.

(2) Make — Methodology: Other researchers can check the report/study in terms of how appropriate the methodological choices were (e.g. sample of participants, (are they truly reflective of the target population?)  research method (does the method used hinder reliability of ecological validity), design etc…

(3) Very- Validity: Other researchers can check the report/study for accuracy in terms of testing, measuring and results analysis. Researchers can make comments in terms of whether they feel the study is ecologically valid or holds high population validity.

(4) Interesting — Integrity: (Integrity definition — the quality of being honest and sound in construction). This helps to ensure that any research paper published in a well-respected journal has integrity and can, therefore, be taken seriously by fellow researchers and by lay people.

(5) Statements — Significant — Peers are also in a position to judge the importance or significance of the research in a wider context, i.e. whether it’s relevant and worth doing, the implications of the research findings on world wide practices (e.g. looking at how research into attachment can inform practices in nurseries and schools etc…)

Peer Reviews can also be used to:

(1) Allocate funding to Universities/decide on a rating for University departments based in the quality and impact of their research studies. For example, if a University is consistently producing high quality research that is having a massive/positive impact on the treatment of mental illnesses, it is likely that this University department will be awarded funding in order to continue with the production of this research.

(2) Suggest amendments and improvements reviewers may recommend that the procedure of the experiment is modified to make it more valid/accurate, they may suggest that the sample of participants used is expanded/increased to make the research hold higher population validity etc…

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