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In an effort to better understand peer review, researchers have been trying to study the process itself. And one such new study may help explain why peer review fails, and why it may not ensure quality in science. Its main finding is that a small minority of researchers are shouldering most of the burden of peer review.

For the paper, the study’s authors (who were mostly based the Paris Descartes University) used a mathematical model to estimate the supply and demand for peer review in biomedical research. For the first time, they came up with a range of what the “global burden” of peer review looks like.

In 2015, they found the supply of peer reviewers exceeded demand by as much as 250 percent. In other words, there were many more potential academics available to carry out the work of vetting research. And yet, they also discovered that only 20 percent of those researchers performed 70 to 95 percent of the reviews. So a small group of the available experts were doing most of the work.

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Image: By Vmenkov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4084043

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