Peer Review and Research Integrity

September 19, 2022

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Written by guest blogger Michael Veall

CPP coverAt least every quarter, a miracle occurs: the release of a new issue of Canadian Public Policy/Analyse de politiques, a journal I edit with the immense help of many. Humanly imperfect, it nonetheless informs the policy process in Canada while maintaining, I believe, a reputation for integrity and reliability.

Similar miracles occur for other journals. But the miracle is not what is done by journal editors or managers or the great people at UTP Journals, essential as they are. The miracle is the contribution of anonymous peer reviewers, who work hard to maintain the journal’s research integrity, despite being neither compensated nor recognized.

Maybe there are a few reviewers who obstruct for their own interest, a problem mitigated by having more than one reviewer per paper. But I have had cases when reviewers recommended papers that challenged their (the reviewers’) published positions.  And having now read about one thousand referee reports, I find that the average standard is very high and the most reasonable steps are taken to catch both honest and (I believe rare) dishonest mistakes.

To promote research integrity/quality still further, here is a wish list, which possibly reviewers could accommodate by spending less time correcting manuscript writing errors, perhaps a less valuable use of their time. The first wish: that more reviewers would look up the cited source of doubtful arguments and check whether the source finding is being summarized accurately.  Second wish: if they are writing in their reports that something is already well known in the literature, that more reviewers would provide a couple of references. This helps editors (or at least me) when there are conflicting reports. Third wish: that more reviewers were tolerant of what some find boring — papers that provide new evidence supporting an existing finding, or show that something one might think is important, isn’t. We all need to avoid being distracted by sizzle.

While of course we all can always do better, virtually every review I have ever received has been helpful. Thanks to every reviewer who has done their bit at my request or the request of any editor of any journal. Bless you.

About the Author

Michael Veall is Professor of Economics at McMaster University. He is an author of a number of articles in journals such as the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Canadian Journal of Economics, and the Canadian Tax Journal. He is editor of the journal Canadian Public Policy/Analyse de politiques which recently won the 2021 Purvis Prize for a highly significant, written contribution to Canadian public policy and the 2022 Scholarly & Research Communication/ Canadian Association of Learned Journals Journal Innovation Award.


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