Peer review in a pickle: Policy approaches for academic peer review

Brandon S. Byers*, Thomas R. Dougherty*, and Uzuki Horo

Edited by Advait Athreya and Bertrand J. Neyhouse

Review | Aug. 31 2023

*Emails: and

DOI: 10.38105/spr.dx30fr4j7c


  • A historical exploration of the academic peer review process demonstrates evolved challenges in its implementation and presents how changes in incentives could facilitate improvements
  • Market responses to peer review challenges are still in the development stages, suggesting the need for policies to ensure the integrity of scientific research while promoting open access, reproducibility, and transparency
  • Four potential policy strategies for peer review (paid services, open services, standardization, and peer review tooling) underscore the potential to improve review quality, mitigate bottlenecks, and create a more transparent process

Article Summary

While the universal proliferation of peer review has improved the quality control of academic work, increased pressures on peer review from modern science have exposed cracks in its current implementation. This paper aims to provide an introduction to the world of academic peer review for academic audiences and policymakers, focusing on changes in its incentives since inception and possible paths forward. Looking through a historical lens on the issues of today permits this paper to contextualize modern problems in peer review and explore possible trajectories between governmental decision-making and the peer review process. The goal of this review paper is to introduce policy strategies based on incentive systems that can address modern issues in peer review to improve the quality and significance of peer-reviewed research.

Open Access


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Brandon S. Byers

Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Thomas R. Dougherty

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Uzuki Horo

Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA