PJ Media

What Peer Review Actually Means

Do you ever wonder if peer reviewed journals are the big deal that elitist academics try to make them out to be? For example, here a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_review”is a definition/a of a peer reviewed journal:br /br /blockquotePeer review (known as refereeing in some academic fields) is a process of subjecting an author’s scholarly work, research or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field. It is used primarily by editors to select and to screen submitted manuscripts, and by funding agencies, to decide the awarding of grants. The peer review process aims to make authors meet the standards of their discipline, and of science in general. Publications and awards that have not undergone peer review are likely to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals in many fields. Even refereed journals, however, can contain errors./blockquote br /br /Not only can refereed journals contain errors, they can contain “experts” who make errors about acceptance and rejection of articles based on their prejudice and fear of ideas that do not meet with their preconceived ideas of how the world should work. I experienced this first hand with an article I wrote with some colleagues a few years ago and submitted to a href=”http://www.law.georgetown.edu/jle/”The Journal of Legal Education/a whom we had contacted and they said they would be interested in such a piece. We thought an article on violence prevention would be helpful to law professors but apparently, the reviewers had other ideas. I have no problem accepting a rejection for an article but when I saw the two reviews our rejection was based on, I must say, I lost respect for this particular journal’s decision to allow such lame reviews. br /br /One review was just lame stating that our analysis of violence prevention was just “simplistic”–a buzz word for “I don’t agree with your viewpoint”–and we needed to get more information from administrators and deans (the very people who have no clue about violence!) with regards to their experience with violence to get more insight etc. Not sure that would help but okay. The second “expert” review reads more like a rant than a review; the funny thing is that I can just imagine the fury of this guy who wrote a long tirade full of typos and I could just imagine his fingers clacking away angrily as he typed. Here are a few highlights from this “expert” review:br /br /blockquoteThe article “Anger and Violence on Campus” is not worthy of publication. Reading it, I was reminded of the premises of so-called war on terrorism-terrorists are evil people who need to be contained or eliminated. Never mind trying to understand the underlying reasons people might resort to violence, there is something fundamentally wrong with them so we need to figure out who they are and keep them from causing harm to others. This paper takes a similar superficial look at violence on campus- those who act violently are fundamentally disturbed people who need to be identified, contained, and if possible eliminated or screened form our campuses. At no point do the author(s) follow-up on their initial observation that “vengeful individuals sought to address perceived grievances” Rather than examining the sorts of perceived grievances people sought to address, they focus exclusively on the failure of institutions to recognize “clues of impending violence” and their inability to take preventative actions…..{long rant}br /br /I will not even bother going into detail in my concerns about the sorts of admissions screening and record keeping that are suggested at the end of the paper-the authors) must have been taking instruction from the Justice department since there is not even any recognition that there might be some issues of rights involved here. /blockquotebr /br /I have no problem being rejected but I do have a problem with the bias that this reviewer shows, indicating that we are “taking instruction from the Justice department” because he does not agree with us. Why say this? I can just imagine the “I hate Bush stickers” plastered on his office door. Anyway, good news, our article has been resubmitted and been accepted by another equally prestigious law review so obviously it is not as “unworthy of publication” as the biased reviewer seemed to think. br /br /I am not retelling this story to get revenge, I merely want to point out that peer review can often mean gate keeper to those ideas that some academics want kept out of print. Diversity of ideas often means little to some elitists when it comes to ideas that do not fit in with with their preconceived notions of how the world should be. This is not a scholarly critique so much as a political rant. We get it, he doesn’t like Bush, but what does this have to do with violence in the classroom? It is, to say the least, disappointing.