The Royal Society and the prehistory of peer review, 1665-1965
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Despite being coined only in the early 1970s, ‘peer review’ has become a powerful rhetorical concept in modern academic discourse, tasked with ensuring the reliability and reputation of scholarly research. Its origins have commonly been dated to the foundation of the Philosophical Transactions in 1665, or to early learned societies more generally, with little consideration of the intervening historical development. It is clear from our analysis of the Royal Society's editorial practices from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries that the function of refereeing, and the social and intellectual meaning associated with scholarly publication, has historically been quite different from the function and meaning now associated with peer review. Refereeing emerged as part of the social practices associated with arranging the meetings and publications of gentlemanly learned societies in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such societies had particular needs for processes that, at various times, could create collective editorial responsibility, protect institutional finances, and guard the award of prestige. The mismatch between that context and the world of modern, professional, international science, helps to explain some of the accusations now being levelled against peer review as not being ‘fit for purpose’.
Moxham , N & Fyfe , A 2018 , ' The Royal Society and the prehistory of peer review, 1665-1965 ' Historical Journal , vol. 61 , no. 4 , pp. 863-889 . https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X17000334
The Accepted Version is Copyright © 2017, Cambridge University Press. The author created, accepted manuscript following peer review may differ slightly from the final published version. This work is made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. The final published version of this work is available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X17000334
DescriptionThe research for this paper was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, grant AH/K001841/1
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