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Peer review is an absolutely essential tool to the scientific machine. You may think you have a great, novel idea - a unique answer to a unique question - and that you developed the most excellent way to structure it.

You are careful in your research, meticulous in your methods. You write a lengthy paper weaving the threads of the history of your field, how your work plays into the greater context, what new advances you have achieved, exactly how you did it, and how the broader community can learn from your wise movements.

You submit to a prestigious academic journal. You wait. Finally, the editor comes back with the decision from the anonymous referees.

Rejected.

The work isn't novel. You made a major methodological mistake. Your conclusions aren't supported by the research. And don't even get me started on the grammar - did your kid write this for you?

You withdraw your paper from consideration; it's not worth fighting this battle. You submit to another prestigious academic journal. You wait. Finally, the editor comes back with the decision from the anonymous referees.

Accepted!

An important contribution to the field. Sound methodology. Strong, well-reasoned conclusions. And don't even get me started on the grammar - so excellently written that my kids could follow it.

Peer review is an absolutely essential tool to the scientific machine, but it's also a human enterprise. It has flaws. The actual peer review happens in the months and years after an article is published, when the community can poke and prod at the work and decide if it's worth keeping around. Peer review and acceptance into a journal isn't an end, it's a beginning.


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