The history of peer review
Did you know?
- It is thought that review by peers has been a method of evaluation since ancient Greece, although it was not standard practise in science until the mid-20th century.
- The physician Ishaq bin Ali al-Rahwi (854-931 CE) of Syria first described the peer review process. He stated that a physician must make notes of a patient's condition on every visit. When the patient was cured or had died, the notes were examined by a local medical council to decide whether the physician had met the required standards of medical care. If their reviews were negative, the physician could face a lawsuit from a maltreated patient.
- As early as the 17th century, scientific clubs (or societies) of gentleman scholars argued over the origin and validity of different theories and discoveries, and helped establish a formal process for announcing, validating and accrediting scientific discovery to the appropriate person.
- Peer review has been a formal part of scientific communication since the first scientific journals appeared more than 300 years ago. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is thought to be the first journal to formalize the peer review process.
- Albert Einstein's "Annus Mirabilis" was not peer reviewed except by the journal's editor in chief and co-editor.
Today, validation by peers and publication in a scientific journal continues to be the method through which authors register, validate, disseminate and archive their discoveries and results. The publication process and the speed at which articles are peer reviewed and published are key elements in the appropriate accreditation of scientific findings.
The peer review process is an essential part of the publishing process. It validates and confirms a researcher’s work and establishes a method through which work can effectively be evaluated.