Can We Fix Peer Review? - A Brown Bag with Philip N. Cohen


Tuesday, November 6, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


NE36 - 6th Floor Shared Conference Room


Contemporary journal peer review is beset by a range of problems. These include (a) long delay times to publication, during which time research is inaccessible; (b) weak incentives to conduct reviews, resulting in high refusal rates as the pace of journal publication increases; (c) quality control problems that produce both errors of commission (accepting erroneous work) and omission (passing over important work, especially null findings); (d) unknown levels of bias, affecting both who is asked to perform peer review and how reviewers treat authors, and; (e) opacity in the process that impedes error correction and more systematic learning, and enables conflicts of interest to pass undetected. Proposed alternative practices attempt to address these concerns -- especially open peer review, and post-publication peer review. However, systemic solutions will require revisiting the functions of peer review in its institutional context. For example, peer reviewers are often asked to evaluate research for its veracity as well as its marketability, and for its novelty as well as its importance -- functions which serve the needs and interests of different actors in the scholarly communication system. As we work to make that system more enduring, equitable, and open, peer review may be transformed from secretive, gatekeeping, and restrictive to conversational, inclusive, and expansive.


About Dr. Cohen:

My research and teaching concern the sociology of families, social demography, and social inequality. I study families and inequality, mostly from a demographic perspective, especially gender and race/ethnic inequality. I also research family structure, marriage and divorce, and the way we measure, count and describe people in and around families. The second edition of my textbook, The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Social Change, will be published in 2018. My new book, in production at University of California Press, is Enduring Bonds: Inequality, Marriage, Parenting, and Everything Else That Makes Families Great and Terrible. My regular writing appears on my blog, Family Inequality, at Finally, I am the director of SocArXiv, the open archive of the social sciences; and the chair of the Family Section of the American Sociological Association. Find me on twitter at @familyunequal.


CV: Curriculum vitae


Personal Website: Philip N. Cohen


LocationNE36 Please note the new location.  This location requires an RSVP to infosciencebrownbag [at] mit dot edu 48 hours in advance of the event and an ID to sign into the building upon arrival.  Please allow time to sign in with security and to proceed to the 6th floor conference room before the start of the discussion.


Information Science/CREOS Brown Bag talks consist of regular discussions and brainstorming sessions on all aspects of information science and uses of information science and technology to assess and solve institutional, social and research problems. These are informal talks. Discussions are often inspired by real-world problems being faced by the lead discussant.  


We will provide lunch, please bring your own drink and your questions.


To participate via WebEx:




Tuesday 11:45 am | 1 hour 30 minutes | (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
Meeting number: 640 342 002
Password: BrownBag


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+1-617-324-0000 US Toll Number
Access code: 640 342 002


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