Peer review in scientific publications - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by the Research Councils UK (PR 67)

1.  Research Councils UK is a strategic partnership set up to champion research supported by the seven UK Research Councils. RCUK was established in 2002 to enable the Councils to work together more effectively to enhance the overall impact and effectiveness of their research, training and innovation activities, contributing to the delivery of the Government's objectives for science and innovation. Further details are available at

2.  This evidence is submitted by RCUK and represents its independent views. It does not include, or necessarily reflect the views of the Knowledge and Innovation Group in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The submission is made on behalf of the following Councils:

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Medical Research Council (MRC).

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

3.  RCUK welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Committee's inquiry into "the operation and effectiveness of the peer review process used to examine and validate scientific results and papers prior to publication".

4.  Peer review is a highly valued tool in the assessment of the quality of research in both the sciences and the arts. As Research Councils we predominantly use peer review in the assessment and prioritisation of which research to fund - this aspect of peer review is upstream of the processes under discussion by the Select Committee and therefore not addressed in this response.

5.  The strengths of peer review far outweigh the weaknesses. Peer review is a key part of the global research landscape, without it the quality of outputs and the quality of research decision making would be much poorer. Peer review provides a detailed technical review of the quality of the research under discussion - essential in order to validate/test assertions made and is accepted as a valid way in which to assure the quality of publications world wide. Researchers take their responsibilities as peer reviewers seriously and the community of peer reviewers represents a significant breadth of expertise; academics, industrialists and other experts both nationally and internationally.

6.  Whilst the benefits of peer review are clear it is important to note that it is both time consuming and labour intensive and that demands on reviewers are higher than ever both from Journals and funding bodies nationally and internationally. Where possible steps should be taken to streamline processes without compromising quality.

Research Councils UK

10 March 2011

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Prepared 28 July 2011