Referees and the publications crisis



Routine refereeing by peers of manuscripts submitted to scholarly journals is a logical and effective device that can obviate ‘crankiness, irrelevance and gross incompetence’ [Ziman, 1970a] on the one hand and minimize editorial arbitrariness on the other. As reviewed by Zuckerman and Merton [1971], the device has historical roots that extend back to the beginning of the first scholarly journals, such as Transactions of the Royal Society, and Journal des Scavans. The growth of science since World War II and the pressure of burgeoning manuscript submission appear to have been important factors in making automatic peer review nearly universal in American and British Commonwealth natural science journals and in international journals influenced by Anglo-North Americans. A 1962 survey cited by Zuckerman and Merton [1971] found that 71% of 156 physical and biological science journals in 13 countries made use of referees.