Diversity and Adjustability of Peer Review

(11/2020 - 10/2023)


Project lead: Dr. Cornelia Schendzielorz, Prof. Dr. Martin Reinhart
Researcher: Lise Moawad, M.A.

Science has to rely on review processes in which the quality of scientific work is evaluated. For processes of both internal and external regulation of science, this is usually done by peer review procedures. Although peer review is omnipresent as an instrument of scientific quality assurance, it has always been controversial. Complaints include susceptibility to error, inefficiency, conservatism, discrimination based on gender, geographical origin or institutional affiliation, which often results in diagnoses of a general crisis and a fundamental overload of the procedures and the involved people. Regarding peer review the overload is addressed in two ways: On the one hand, through procedural innovations, such as lotteries, on the other hand, through a formalization of the procedures, e.g. informed peer review.
Against this background, the project is interested in specific peer review formats and their advantages and disadvantages not as individual cases, but as components of a more comprehensive system of mechanisms to govern science. The central question is how peer review formats contribute to the quality, legitimacy, and social relevance as well as significance of science through their procedures, criteria and use cases. This will be examined by means of three case studies, in which procedural innovation and formalization of peer review become apparent in different ways. The selection of cases is based on a heuristic distinguishing between evaluation object, evaluation criteria and evaluation procedure (Krüger/Reinhart 2017).
These three aspects will be addressed in case studies:
- New assessment procedure: Lotteries in research funding
- New evaluation criterion: "Societal impact" in the British Research Excellence Framework
- Changing object of evaluation: university networks in the German and French Excellence Initiative.
Various elements of the peer review formats are differentiated with regard to their function for quality assurance. The study aims to develop a typology of peer review formats by means of a comparative process analysis. Thereby, we want to determine the potential of the instruments, formalization efforts and innovations currently tested in peer review to ensure good scientific practice.


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