Peer review

What is this about?

Peer review is an evaluation of a piece of work by persons from the same or a similar field of work (peers). Peer review is very important in science, and it is conducted to ensure quality before (or sometimes even after) the publication of new knowledge. This article is about scholarly (academic) peer review (1).

Why is this important?

In a scientific journal, the editor is responsible for the quality of published research. Of course, an editor cannot possibly know everything about all areas of research. They must, therefore, seek help from other experts to assess the quality of research. They rely on their knowledge and experience to identify possible weaknesses in research (2). For authors, the peer review process provides thoughtful comments to help them improve their manuscript. Peer review is important in scientific publishing, but also in reviewing project proposals or, sometimes, conference abstracts.

For whom is this important?

Scientists, Journal editors, Reviewers

What are the best practices?

Most high-quality scientific journals are peer reviewed. That means that when you send them your work, you can expect it to be forwarded to other experts and scientists. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing. Their comments will eventually improve your work, by finding issues you didn’t tackle, or will provide new ideas on data analysis. Each journal has its own rules, so sometimes you will know the names of your reviewers, and sometimes you won’t (3). Some journals publish the whole review along with the paper.

If you are invited to do a review of a paper, you should be honest with yourself – do you have the time to do the review? Is this your area of work, do you know enough to make a good contribution? Do you have any vested interest to declare? Keep in mind that the peer review process is confidential. That means you cannot share the materials you get as part of your review, and you shouldn’t discuss them with your colleagues at work. If you find some parts of the paper difficult to understand or analyze (for example, statistical analysis), you should inform the editor (you cannot, for example, ask a friend who has a background in statistics to help you out).


1. Wierzbinski-Cross H. Peer Review. J Nurses Prof Dev. 2017;33(2):102-4.

2. Smith JA, Jr. The Importance of Peer Review: J Urol. 2017 Jun;197(6):1374-1376. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2017.03.115. Epub 2017 Mar 22.

3. Moriarity AK, Hawkins CM, Geis JR, Dreyer KJ, Kamer AP, Khandheria P, et al. Meaningful Peer Review in Radiology: A Review of Current Practices and Potential Future Directions. J Am Coll Radiol. 2016;13(12 Pt A):1519-24.

Marin Viđak contributed to this theme.

Latest contribution was May 29, 2019