Discover the genesis of peer review and share your thoughts about its future. Your ideas about how research should be conducted, reported, assessed and published are immensely valuable.
PLOS Peer Review Toolkit
History of Peer Review
Your ideas about how research should be conducted, reported, assessed and published are immensely valuable. Discover the genesis of peer review and scroll to the bottom to share your thoughts about its future.
Study the past, if you would divine the future.
- Confucius
The origins of peer review
17th century
Peer review as a means of assessing scientific research before publication emerged in 17th century Europe as the national societies were formed. In these early days peer review was very informal and infrequent. Journal editors might (or might not) seek the advice of an academic in the field before publishing the research. Distribution capacity was limited and the purpose of peer review was to select which information was most worthy of publication.
Early peer review 19th century
During the 19th century (especially after World War II) peer review evolved into what we recognise today as conventional peer review. This change was driven by a few factors; research diversification created a need for expertise broader than that of an editorial team; a modern academic institution prestige economy developed around the perception of quality journal publications; and peer review gained symbolic capital as a process of achieving objective judgment and consensus. Peer review became entwined in scholarly communication, it’s role to assess importance, validity and journal suitability of research articles before they become part of the scientific record.
Modern peer review
Late 20th - early 21st century
The emergence of web-based technologies has enabled a host of innovations in peer review and challenges to the status quo. These include (but are not limited to) changes in: what peer review involves, when it happens, how it is facilitated (and by whom), who participates, how anonymous or transparent it is, how the reviews are used (and re-used), and how reviewers are recognised for their work.
Crystal Ball
Predict the future of peer review
Where do you think peer review is headed? Share your ideas and enter to win one of five PLOS t-shirts.
Congratulations to the winners from our inaugural issue: Kannan Venugopal, Jon Tennant, Heok Hee Ng, Renee Dale, and Godwin Sokpor.
Want to read more about peer review’s past?
In referees we trust?
Melinda Baldwin
Physics Today

A quick read on the origin and evolution of peer review and the flaws with conventional peer review, perfect for your commute.
How female fellows fared at the Royal Society.
Aileen Fyfe and
Camilla Mørk Røstvik

A close look at how editorial practices affected women’s involvement. Check out the ‘Women at the Royal Society’ timeline for key dates.
A multi-disciplinary perspective on emergent and future innovations in peer review.
Tennant JP, Dugan JM, Graziotin D et al.
F1000 Research

A comprehensive resource on history and recent innovations in peer review. Consult the figures for at-a-glance guides.
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