How pre-publication journal peer review (re)produces ignorance at scientific and medical journals: a case study

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Title: How pre-publication journal peer review (re)produces ignorance at scientific and medical journals: a case study
Authors: Gaudet, Joanne J.
Date: 2014-06-20
Abstract: The main goal of this paper is to explore how journal peer review produces and reproduces ignorance at scientific and medical journals. I focus on the case of pre- publication journal peer review (traditional peer review). Scientific ignorance is non- pejorative as the limits and borders of knowledge where new scientific ideas can contain new ignorance that pushes the boundaries of knowledge. Traditional peer review is an example of a ‘boundary judgement’ social form where content refers to decisions from the judgement of scientific written texts held to account to an overarching knowledge system – creating boundaries between what is and what is not considered science. Moreover, boundary judgement forms interact with the social form of scientific exchange where scientists communicate knowledge and ignorance. I investigate traditional peer review’s structural properties – elements that contribute to shaping relations in a form – to understand ignorance (re)production. Analysis of twenty-five cases with empirical and self- and third party accounts data, and data from eleven semi-structured interviews helps construct theoretical insights into how traditional peer review mostly contributes to ignorance reproduction. Reproduction owes to four structural properties: (1) contingency traditional peer review places on scientific exchange; (2) secrecy for original manuscripts and editorial judgements and decisions; (3) a relation of accountability to empiricism for editorial readers that helps construct a boundary for manuscripts, deemed as scientific or not; and (4) a relation of accountability to readers enhanced by a criterion of originality that appears to construct another boundary for manuscripts, deemed as newsworthy or not. I conclude with implications from this work set against Kuhn’s theory of paradigms. I also look to implications for authors, policymakers, editors, and journal publishers.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/31198
CollectionSociologie et anthropologie // Sociology and Anthropology - Publications
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