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Study notes

Role of Peer Review in the Scientific Process

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Peer review is a process that takes place before a study is published to ensure that the research is of a high quality, contributes to the field of research and is accurately presented.  The process is carried out by experts in the related field of research

Peer review has an important function, as it ensures that only high quality research is disseminated and available as a body of scientific evidence.  Such evidence frequently becomes part of mainstream thinking and practice, so it is vital that conclusions that these are based on are the subject of valid methods and accurate presentation.  

If research was published without this process of review and checking, poor research might be disseminated which would damage the integrity of that field of research, or that of the discipline as a whole.  

In addition, research often has clear practical applications for society or people’s day to day lives; if research was not reviewed to ensure quality, then any recommendations or guidelines could not be founded and may have negative consequences for affected individuals

Strengths of Peer Review

Peer review promotes and maintains high standards in research, which has implications for society and funding allocation so that it is assigned to high quality research.

Helps to prevent scientific fraud, as submitted work is scrutinised.

It promotes the scientific process through the development and dissemination of accurate of knowledge and contributes new knowledge to the field.

Limitations of Peer Review

If anonymity is not maintained experts with a conflict of interest might not approve research to further their own reputation or career.

Contributes to the “file drawer effect” – as only statistically significant findings are published.  This means that findings that challenge existing understanding might be overlooked as they are not published

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