Thursday, May 11, 2017


Zitierzirkel – You cite me, and I cite you. Like I scratch your back if you scratch mine. 
Seems Zitierzirkel is literally a quoting circle.

Having just watched Professor Moriarty (not related to the one of Holmes fame) I wonder if a discussion about the peer review process might be a good topic for discussion 1 in our Walden forum. This post was written for that discussion.


What are the benefits of the peer review process in academia? 

The peer review process is designed to expose flaws in the study design, report, analysis, or discussion of scientific research. When it works well, it delivers timely targeted feedback – constructive criticism which should be used to improve the research (Lee & Bero, 2006). The benefits of peer review, as our Walden Library reminds us, is to alert readers to study biases and inconsistencies, while ensuring integrity, replicability, and validity of the research. The peer review process is imperfect as the humans who carry it out.

Recently the journal giant Springer reported that 64 papers were being withdrawn due to fake peer reviews (Watts, 2015, August 19).  At a meeting of the AAAS in Washington, DC last month, Shankar presented a poster session in which he said peer review is essential to scientific research. Peer review has been the way things have been done for about 300 years (Weller, 2001). Whether the process can be traced back to the Royal Society of London in 1752 or not (Spier, 2002), the purpose of peer review is “the assessment by an expert of material submitted for publication” (Mulligan, 2015).
I discussed this topic with a colleague in Berlin (SL can be a wonderful place for academic networking). He introduced me to a German term, Zitierzirkel. In short, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.  In his opinion, peer review leads to a small selection of people, who may invite their friends to review their work, and this circle of peers have similar ideas, read the same articles, go to the same conferences, and draw the same conclusions. I had not considered this problem with exclusivity. He referred to Zitierzirkel has a small school of citing and said these people are so obvious in what they do.

Despite my concerns about the peer review process, my colleague thinks the process is fine if   diverse reviewers are used ensuring a broader range of opinions may lead to longer discussions, and better results. But those diverse reviewers still are part of our present generation which seem to have problems with ethics. In the recesses of my memory, are Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.
I would put forth that the real problem with the peer review process has to do with the present generation’s failure to reach Kohlberg’s final stage of moral development.  We are stuck in the age of entitlement (as a fellow teacher from Hagerstown who lives in Frostburg once said). If we get to stage 4 we become stuck in self-absorption, busy taking selfies, and furthering our own careers. Branch (2000) claimed that medical students were not attaining the higher levels of moral development for practicing medicine in ethically sound ways. Lickona (1983) tells us, “research shows, only a minority of adults attain Stage 5” (p.15).
I have outlined some problems with the system, but what are the benefits of the peer review process?


Branch, W. T. (2000). Supporting the Moral Development of Medical Students.Journal of General Internal Medicine15(7), 503–508.
Lee, K., & Bero, L. (2006). What authors, editors and reviewers should do to improve peer review. Nature, 471, 91-94.
Lickona, T. (1983). Raising good children: Helping your child through the stages of moral development. Toronto: Bantam Books.
Mulligan, A. (2005). Is peer review in crisis? Oral Oncology41(2), 135-141.
Shankar, K. (2016, February). Opening the Black Box of Scientific Peer Review: Preliminary Results from the New Frontier. In 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting (February 11-15, 2016). AAAS.
Spier, R. (2002). The history of the peer-review process. TRENDS in Biotechnology20(8), 357-358.
Watts, A. (2015, August 19). Peer review is broken – Springer announces 64 papers retracted due to fake reviews. Retrieved March 08, 2016, from 

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