Peer Review as We Know It

The peer-review process is a funny old beast. It’s an imperfect system that varies from journal to journal and everyone has an opinion on the best way to manage it: the authors should/shouldn’t be anonymous, the reviewers should/shouldn’t be rewarded, there should be a maximum of two reviewers, there should be a minimum of three… the list goes on.


But where does the concept of peer review come from – and just how long have we been deciding whether or not to publish new research in this way?


Just how old is it?

According to some sources, the concept can be traced back to ancient Greece; however it is more popularly attributed to Henry Oldenburg, the first editor of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London which launched in 1665 (fun fact – it’s still in print!). It would be roughly three centuries before peer review would really take off, however, with the academic editors making a judgement call themselves on whether or not to publish a paper. There is a famous story of Einstein being mortally offended when, in 1939, an academic editor had the audacity to consult with external reviewers on a paper he’d submitted without obtaining permission from him to share it prior to publication.


Why should deciding internally have been the norm for so long, however? Surely getting an independent set of eyes or two on new research makes sense – especially since the concept had been around for so long? Well, it may have made sense, but the problem wasn’t just cultural, it was practical.


It wasn’t so long ago that papers would have to be written on a typewriter, or even by hand. In order to be distributed, they would need to be copied out by hand. The reviewers would then need to be contacted by post and there was the danger of manuscripts/reviews being lost, thereby having to start the process of coping/sending all over again. In the majority of cases, it simply wasn’t feasible.


So what changed?

Distribution of papers amongst experts became a somewhat easier task (albeit still dependent on snail mail) with the invention of the Xerox machine. Which was just as well, as the expansion of scientific endeavours with new fields developing at an alarming rate during the 20th century, meant that it became increasingly difficult for academic editors to have enough of an overview of their fields to continue making judgment calls without seeking second opinions.


By the 1970s, external review was becoming the standard procedure, and the phrase “peer review” seems to have been coined at around this time. With the arrival of the internet – and, more importantly, email – the whole process became a far more streamlined proposition as we were now able to quickly and easily send files out to experts anywhere in the world without being at the mercy of the postage system.


More recently this has been taken one step further with most journals now running their peer review via an online submission system such as ScholarOne Manuscripts or Editorial Manager, much to the relief of those of us who remember running journals from an Excel spreadsheet. Although naturally a vast improvement on snail mail and filing cabinets, the spreadsheets/email system was not without its problems (but more on that here).


What’s next for peer review?

The interesting thing about the review process – be it external or internal – is that it’s always evolving to meet the needs of the scientific community, with new ideas being incorporated and new technologies being employed as and when they become available. So it’s hard to predict where it will go next – but we’re excited to find out!


Further reading

Peer Review – A Historical Perspective

A brief history of peer review

The Rise of Peer Review: Melinda Baldwin on the History of Refereeing at Scientific Journals and Funding Bodies

A Look Back at 2022

2022 is now drawing to a close, and what a year it’s been for The Editorial Hub! What better time than to have a little look back at everything that’s happened?


Our new website

Let’s begin with the thing that is quite literally staring you in the face as you read this: our fabulous new website! Yes, we launched our new online home early in 2022 – our hub for The Hub, as we like to think of it.

We felt that we needed a website that reflected The Editorial Hub as a company – flexible, dynamic, and user-friendly. Now that it’s been live for a while, we are delighted to say that we think it does just that. You can read more about it here!


Copy-editing and proofreading

2022 was the year that we formally started offering both copy-editing and proofreading alongside our peer-review management services.

From proofing for formatting errors to performing substantive editing of an article’s structure, our fantastic team have been busy making sure our clients’ content is in tip-top condition prior to publication. You can read more about all our services here.


International services

Did you know that we are now able to offer editorial support in more than just English? Well, we are!

Several members of our team are fluent in (or native speakers of) other languages and we are adding experienced Managing Editors from all over the world all the time. So if you’re in need of editorial support on a non-English language journal, get in touch.


Conference organisation

2022 was the year we took our first steps into conference organisation, and we absolutely loved it!

We’ll be adding these services to our website soon, so watch this space – but if you need help with organising your event, or if you are looking to organise a conference around your journal and you aren’t quite sure where to start, we’d love to have a conversation with you so drop us a line.


And last but not least…

… journals! Yes, we’ve added many new titles to our list this year, and we continue to provide world-class editorial support to our ever-expanding portfolio of scholarly publications.

In particular we’ve been delighted to take on an entire suite of journals (which include some particularly high-volume journals) and our team has risen to the challenge with a level of professionalism we can really take pride in.

If you’re in need of editorial support on your list – be it just the one journal, or dozens of them – contact us now.


Here’s to a wonderful 2023 all round!

“…You made a potentially tricky time so much smoother.– ReCALL

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About our Founders

Naomi Conneely and Stephanie Sacharov started The Editorial Hub Ltd back in 2014 and the company is now recognised as a leading global supplier. With the launch of our new website this year we thought it’d be a good opportunity to find out a little bit more about our founders!


How long have you known each other and how did you meet?

Naomi: 35 years – an introduction through family.

Steph: Although we both went to the same school in Harrogate (different years).


What made you decide to start a business together?

Steph: An interesting chat in Pret A Manager at Bicester Village!

Naomi: I knew we would make a formidable working partnership and the rest is history.


What’s your favourite thing about working together?

Steph: That we can chat for hours about absolutely anything and everything!

Naomi: Ditto the above, my bestie! We do everything we can to help each other out and we trust each other. We are totally comfortable with each other and have open and honest conversations.


What’s the worst thing about it?

Steph: Forgetting to not talk shop when on a social night/day out and the things we can work out when we are.

Naomi: Getting the giggles at the most inappropriate moments and just not being able to stop. Living so far apart (though we do make the most of our time when we do get together). When speaking to new clients whilst having to silence noisy dogs who decide that’s the moment they are going to chase their tails or bark at something!


You guys work really well together, what do you each think is the key ingredient to a good management duo?

Steph: Taking the ‘mickey’ at every opportunity first and foremost! Knowing how the other would handle a situation so we are on the same page, which only comes from having a long history with that person.

Naomi: We each have things that we are better at. And we do talk every day at least once (sometimes for the whole day….!).

“…agility with all practical and logistical aspects of paper revision and editorial decisions.– Journal of Tropical Pediatrics

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