An Epistemic Analysis of Peer Review. Nature, Purpose, and Future Directions

Ina Gawel (doctoral project, ongoing)

Scholarly Peer Review is widely credited with having a pivotal role in self-corrective mechanisms in science, thus playing a crucial role in maintaining research integrity. Its performance, however, has been a controversial and much-disputed subject in a wide range of fields. For example, authors repeatedly address injustice, inconsistency, and lack of efficiency.

Nevertheless, the research on Peer Review takes place in other fields than Philosophy. Little research on its nature, history and functions, and likewise rarely exchange between those researchers do not remedy the lack of knowledge on “what peer review actually is and does” (Tennant and Ross-Hellauer 2020). Consequently, it seems difficult to evaluate its functionality. 

I want to propose an in-depth investigation into the nature of contemporary Peer Review practices to fully understand what Peer Review is, how it has evolved and how it works, and which functions it should and does perform. Only an understanding of the function of a mechanism can enable the evaluation of its performance. Moreover, it seems to be a condition for the detection, analysis, and correction of problems occurring in the context of Peer Review. To this end, I include both the history of Peer Review and its present-day use and understanding.