Due to the human element, peer review, a critical component of the publication process, can be biased and is often inefficient. Drummond Rennie, a former president of the World Association of Medical Editors, has championed research into peer review for many years and in a recent article has highlighted the improvements that have been made and where more work is needed.
Rennie was moved to act after coming across cases of plagiarism by reviewers and the revelation that fabricated data could get through peer review and be published. He was involved in the setup of the Peer Review Congress, which is held every 4 years. The ensuing research into peer review has contributed to milestones such as the CONSORT guidelines to improve the reporting of clinical trial data and the EQUATOR Network now has more than 300 reporting guidelines to aid the writing of scientific research.
The question of which is the best method of peer review–open, blinded, pre vs. post publication, portable–is open for debate. Rennie highlights the need for further research to examine the claims and counterclaims of the advantages and disadvantages of each method so that this important question can be investigated. Progress is being made and the launch last year of a journal specifically for research into this area, Research Integrity and Peer Review, can only help. Rennie stresses the need for all those involved in the publication process, authors, editors and reviewers, to use the existing guidelines to uphold standards and to continually monitor and develop the practice as needed.