Peer review has been a fundamental part of scholarly journals since their inception. It is the process of subjecting an author's manuscript (article) to scrutiny by others who are considered to be experts in that particular subject field, prior to its publication.
The role of the publishers is to manage and support this process, much heavy lifting is performed by unpaid academic scholars who act as editors, members of editorial boards and referees (peers).
Peer review involves:
1. Review of the submitted manuscript by journal editorial staff to make sure that the work fits into the journal's scope and meets its standards as to format, research ethics, research methodology, etc.
2. Editors then select reviewers who using a double-blind process, assess manuscript for quality and make recommendations to the editor regarding the acceptance of the work for publication, required revisions or rejection of the work. It is during this process they:
3. The Journal editor (and quite often the journal editorial board) makes the final decision to publish a submitted work. For an in-depth discussion of the peer review process see The STM Report: An overview of the scientific and scholarly publishing pp. 47 - 57.
Authors of articles attach great importance to the peer review process because of how it assists them in improving the quality of their papers. The peer review process also provided a mechanism for identifying plagiarism.
Ultimately to you, as a reader, the peer review's greatest value is found in the "central pillar of trust" that the process imparts into the article's trustworthiness - it provides a degree of certainty about the quality of the product.
Nicholas, D., Watkinson, A., Jamali, H. R., Herman, E., Tenopir, C., Volentine, R., Allard, S., & Levine, K. (2015). Peer review: still king in the digital age. Learned Publishing, 28(1), 15–21. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lxh&AN=100007441&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=s5672116&authtype=sso
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