Peer Review

I read an interesting article in the Times Higher Education [1] which talked about peer pressure from the peer review point of view. Most graduate students and tenure-track faculty members have to publish frequently to stay ahead of their contemporaries. The fact that they publish so many papers also implies that a lot of such papers get reviewed by their colleagues. The problem occurs when the reviewers are not experienced enough to provide a genuinely good review. In such a case, ground-breaking work may also get rejected because of the reviewer’s inability to comprehend the research that has been done.

Even from my personal experience, I wrote a journal paper based on my Master’s Thesis on Control of inter-area oscillations in power systems. It got rejected from a reputed journal because one of the reviewers said that we did not properly address “damping of wind energy conversion systems”. The fact that our paper had nothing to do with “damping of wind energy conversion systems” had completely escaped the reviewer. When we submitted the same paper to another reputed journal in my field, it got accepted in the first review itself.

Instances like these make me feel (and I am sure based on [1] that I am not the only author who feels this), if the peer-review process is really as reliable as we make it out to be? I agree that reviewing a paper written by someone else is a tedious task. One has to initially understand the underlying theories and assumptions, and then try to estimate the value of the work. But as academicians, isn’t this what we are expected to do? Isn’t that our moral responsibility?

Reference:

[1] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=421115

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