Original Paper

Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 305-310

First online:

Perceptions of Ethical Problems with Scientific Journal Peer Review: An Exploratory Study

  • David B. ResnikAffiliated withNIEHS/NIH Email author 
  • , Christina Gutierrez-FordAffiliated withNIEHS/NIH
  • , Shyamal PeddadaAffiliated withNIEHS/NIH

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This article reports the results of an anonymous survey of researchers at a government research institution concerning their perceptions about ethical problems with journal peer review. Incompetent review was the most common ethical problem reported by the respondents, with 61.8% (SE = 3.3%) claiming to have experienced this at some point during peer review. Bias (50.5%, SE = 3.4%) was the next most common problem. About 22.7% (SE = 2.8%) of respondents said that a reviewer had required them to include unnecessary references to his/her publication(s), 17.7% (SE = 2.6%) said that comments from reviewers had included personal attacks, and 9.6% (SE = 2.0%) stated that reviewers had delayed publication to publish a paper on the same topic. Two of the most serious violations of peer review ethics, breach of confidentiality (6.8%, SE = 1.7%) and using ideas, data, or methods without permission (5%, SE = 1.5%) were perceived less often than the other problems. We recommend that other investigators follow up on our exploratory research with additional studies on the ethics of peer review.


Journal peer review Ethics Bias Reform