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A Brief History of Expert Peer Review

Expert peer review is in a constant state of evolution, but where did it all start?

Scholarly peer review is the process of subjecting an author's work to the scrutiny of those considered to be experts in the field, with the primary intent of evaluating its fitness for publication. Although the first record of pre-publication peer review dates back to 1665, the first peer-reviewed publication can be found in a 1731 edition of Medical Essays and Observations published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Although the term had not yet been coined, the practice of what we now call peer review was established by the Royal Society of London in 1827. Members of this society sought reports from referees as a means of preserving expertise in the editorial process. The highly-revered English naturalist Charles Darwin underwent this process frequently as an author, and more often as a referee for the Geological Society, the Royal Society, and the Linnean Society in the late 1830s.  

Learned societies in the mid-19th century incorporated a complex peer review process that drew on the expertise of referees, while relying on editorial committees to prevent bias. Although this process contributed to the society journal's value and prestige, it also significantly slowed research publication and increased competition with editor-managed independent journals.

Our modern day system of peer review developed from the processes outlined in these early publications, but it did not become a common, standardized process until the mid 20th-century. Although peer review was considered akin to the scientific method, editorial committees performed this duty exclusively until the end of the 19th century. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, peer review was first introduced to the U.S. in 1967 as "a form of review of competence by others in the same occupation." 

Google ngram—which charts the annual frequency of certain phrases in printed documents—indicates that "peer review" was virtually unmentioned until the 1970s. This sudden spike can perhaps be attributed to its widespread adoption by organizations outside of the academy, including grant-making bodies like the U.S. National Science Foundation. Participants at the recent Future of Scholarly Scientific Communication conference argued that the future of peer review may look very different in an increasingly internet-based era.

Expert peer review has come a long way after nearly four centuries of development, and it remains in a constant state of improvement. JuriLytics effectively contributes to this improvement by implementing a reliable system that helps attorneys and judges vet experts and ensure fairer and more equitable case outcomes. To find out more about our unique solution and the success we have had thus far, explore our site, or contact a representative of JuriLytics today to schedule a consultation.

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