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Reviewing Peer Review
Jeannette M. Wing discusses peer review and its
importance in terms of public trust. Ed H. Chi writes about
alternatives, such as open peer commentary.
Jeannette M. Wing “Why Peer Review Matters” http://cacm.acm.org/ blogs/blog-cacm/98560 At the most recent Snow- bird conference, where the chairs of computer science departments in the U.S. meet every two years, there was a plenary session during which the panelists and audience discussed the
peer review processes in computing
research, especially as they pertain to
a related debate on conferences versus journals. It’s good to go back to
first principles to see why peer review
matters, to inform how we then would
think about process.
In research we are interested in discovering new knowledge. With new
knowledge we push the frontiers of
the field. It is through excellence in research that we advance our field, keeping it vibrant, exciting, and relevant.
How is excellence determined? We rely
on experts to distinguish new results
from previously known, correct results
from incorrect, relevant problems
from irrelevant, significant results
from insignificant, interesting results
from dull, the proper use of scientific
methods from being sloppy, and so on.
We call these experts our peers. Their/
our judgment assesses the quality and
value of the research we produce. It is
important for advancing our field to
ensure we do high-quality work. That’s
why peer review matters.
In science, peer review matters not
just for scientific truth, but, in the
broader context, for society’s percep-
tion of science. Peer review matters
for the integrity of science. Scientific
integrity is the basis for public trust
in us, in our results, in science. Most
people don’t understand the technical
details of a scientific result, let alone
how it was obtained, what assump-
tions were made, in what contexts the
result is applicable, or what practical
implications it has. When they read
in the news that “Scientists state X,”
there is an immediate trust that “X”
is true. They know that science uses
peer review to vet results before they
are published. They trust this process
to work. It is important for us, as scien-
tists, not to lose the public trust in sci-
ence. That’s why peer review matters.
Why peer review matters.
Pushing the Frontiers of a Field
excellence in research
experts ≈ “Peers”
Merit (“Peer”) review Process
Integrity of Science