Better science through peer review

January 08, 2020

The BioScience Talks podcast features discussions of topical issues related to the biological sciences.

Peer review lies at the heart of the grant selection process and, by extension, the scientific enterprise itself. For scientific curiosity to be shaped into concrete research, grant-making bodies must decide which research questions are in the most urgent need of answers--and which researchers are best able to answer them. To inform those decisions, funders rely on grant reviewers--most of whom volunteer their time--to evaluate numerous proposals and recommend the most promising among them. However, despite its massive importance to science and society, peer review itself remains inadequately studied and often poorly understood.

To shed light on this critical institution, American Institute of Biological Sciences chief scientist Stephen Gallo and his colleagues recently published the results of a major survey. It is joined by a grant review report from Publons, a company housed within Clarivate Analytics that helps researchers track their research and review outputs and works to encourage greater recognition of scientists' work.

The publications bear striking similarities. In particular, both highlight the value embedded in the present system, with 78% of participants in the Publons survey reporting that peer review is the best way to allocate research funding and 87% of the respondents to the AIBS survey stating that peer review has had a positive effect on their careers. Troublingly, however, the surveys unearthed potential sustainability problems, with a small number of reviewers carrying out a disproportionately large share of the reviews. Publons, for instance, found that 4% of reviewers were responsible for 25% of the work; the AIBS survey had similar results. To improve reviewer participation and increase the sustainability of the system, the reports encouraged greater professional recognition for reviewer efforts, which are infrequently considered in hiring and promotion decisions.

In this episode of BioScience Talks, we are joined by Stephen Gallo and Matthew Hayes, director of Publons, who discuss the survey results and shed light on the future of peer review.
To hear the whole discussion, visit this link ( for this latest episode of the BioScience Talks podcast.

BioScience, published monthly by Oxford Journals, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience is a forum for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an organization for professional scientific societies and organizations, and individuals, involved with biology. AIBS provides decision-makers with high-quality, vetted information for the advancement of biology and society. Follow BioScience on Twitter @BioScienceAIBS.

Oxford Journals is a division of Oxford University Press. Oxford Journals publishes well over 300 academic and research journals covering a broad range of subject areas, two-thirds of which are published in collaboration with learned societies and other international organizations. The division been publishing journals for more than a century, and as part of the world's oldest and largest university press, has more than 500 years of publishing expertise behind it. Follow Oxford Journals on Twitter @OxfordJournals

American Institute of Biological Sciences

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