Defending Peer Review

The Aporetic:

What strikes me about argu­ments in sup­port of open peer review is that they are often premised on a utopian vision of our dig­i­tal future and a dystopian view of our ana­log present. The utopi­anism is nei­ther sur­pris­ing nor prob­lem­atic. Pro­po­nents of change are under­stand­ably enthu­si­as­tic. Once exper­i­ments are launched, some of this enthu­si­asm will be tem­pered by expe­ri­ence. There is every rea­son to expect these mod­els to improve through trial and error.

I am con­cerned, though, about the extremely neg­a­tive views of cur­rent peer review prac­tices that seem to moti­vate the reform move­ment. There is no doubt that prob­lems exist and that trav­es­ties occur. But I think it would be a mis­take to design a new sys­tem on the basis of an exag­ger­ated cri­tique of the old one. I’m wor­ried, in other words, that unless we rec­og­nize what’s valu­able in our cur­rent prac­tices, we will throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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