by Matthew A. Cronin (Guest Author)
Peer review is an essential part of the “collective” in creating collective impact. It is what makes management science science. In a time when desirable findings and folk wisdom can be easily dressed up using pseudoscience, unsound tests, confirmatory hypothesis testing, or a host of other specious methods, getting an expert’s validation that claims are sound is critical. If knowledge is our product, then peer review is quality control.
Peer review can also be one of the great stresses in our job as researchers. When it is done well, the authors and the review team bring the work to the next level, and it creates a thrilling, if challenging, creation experience. Done poorly, it becomes a sham performance, and it sucks the life from the paper and the author. We care about our work, and must publish or perish, so the emotional experience of peer review is significant.
With so much at stake what do we, as a field, do to ensure that the critical peer review function is well executed? Unfortunately, very little. It was one of the chief complaints when the Academy of Management editors met in December 2022, and conversation continues among business journal editors more broadly in the Organization and Management Editors (OMEN) network. Training in how to review or how to be in an editorial role is quite rare.
Even worse than limited training, the field disincentivizes this role. Most schools call peer review, even being an associate editor “service,” or in the parlance of Babcock et al., (2022) a “non-promotable task.” That is something even though important takes away from the time you would spend working on tasks that will get you promoted, like producing research that will, ironically, need peer review!
Luckily, a few small changes could improve the situation drastically.
- Require training in peer review as part of doctoral education. While there are differences in journal expectations, the similarities outnumber differences. Even better, requiring this broad-based training will help us as a field, collectively, think about how reviewing can increase our impact.
- Include reviewing in the tenure packet. If promotion required your reviewing history, supplemented by letters on its quality from the Associate Editors (AE) for whom you reviewed, the quality would improve overnight. It may also have the benefit of increasing the cachet and visibility of being an AE, which could help with promotion, getting grants, etc.
- Stop calling peer review “service.” One cannot be a good reviewer without substantive knowledge and research skill. Further, how different is the task of the reviewer and a 3rd or 4th author when it comes to evaluating the research? To call reviewing “service” trivializes it to a chore.
Better peer review means better science and a better experience making that science. It’s a collective effort that we, as a field, could better support. Then, our science will truly be a collective effort.
Babcock, L., Peyser, B., Vesterlund L., Weingart L. R. (2022) The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work. New York: Simon and Shuster