To publish or not to publish? That is the question

May 21, 2010

For more than 50 years medical research has been vetted through the peer-review process overseen by medical journal editors who assign reviewers to determine whether work merits publication. A study published in PLoS One investigates reviewers' recommendations and their influence on journal editors who are the ultimate arbiters of whether the research is published or not.

"Published research is becoming a more and more significant factor in scientific dialogue. Physicians and other researchers are no longer the only readers of medical studies. Patients and their families and friends now regularly access medical literature. This makes the review process even more important," said study senior author William Tierney, M.D., a Regenstrief Institute investigator, Chancellor's Professor and professor of medicine at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"Peer review provides an important filtering function with the goal of insuring that only the highest quality research is published. Yet the results of our analysis suggest that reviewers agree on the disposition of manuscripts - accept or reject - at a rate barely exceeding what would be expected by chance. Nevertheless, editors' decisions appear to be significantly influenced by reviewer recommendations," said Dr. Tierney, who is the Joseph J. Mamlin Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

A total of 2,264 manuscripts submitted to the Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM) were sent by the for external review to two or three reviewers each during the study period. These manuscripts received a total of 5,881 reviews provided by 2,916 reviewers. Twenty-eight percent of all reviews recommended rejection. However, the journal's overall rejection rate was much higher -- 48 percent overall and 88 percent when all reviewers for a manuscript agreed on rejection (which occurred with only 7 percent of manuscripts). The rejection rate was 20 percent even when all reviewers agreed that the manuscript should be accepted (which occurred with 48 percent of ).

"We need to better understand and improve the reliability of the process while helping editors, who make the ultimate publish or not publish decision, recognize the limitations of reviewers' recommendations," said Dr. Tierney, who served as JGIM co-editor-in-chief from 2004-2009.

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

More information: The PLoS One study "Editorial Peer Reviewers' Recommendations at a General Medical Journal: Are They Reliable and Do Editors Care?" can be found at www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0010072

Provided by Indiana University School of Medicine

3.5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peer Review Survey 2009: Preliminary findings

Sep 08, 2009

Should peer review detect fraud and misconduct? What does it do for science and what does the scientific community want it to do? Will it illuminate good ideas or shut them down? Should reviewers remain anonymous?

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.