, Volume 99, Issue 3, pp 663-688

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Mechanism change in a simulation of peer review: from junk support to elitism

  • Mario PaolucciAffiliated withInstitute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Italian National Research Council Email author 
  • , Francisco GrimaldoAffiliated withDepartament d’Informàtica, Universitat de València


Peer review works as the hinge of the scientific process, mediating between research and the awareness/acceptance of its results. While it might seem obvious that science would regulate itself scientifically, the consensus on peer review is eroding; a deeper understanding of its workings and potential alternatives is sorely needed. Employing a theoretical approach supported by agent-based simulation, we examined computational models of peer review, performing what we propose to call redesign, that is, the replication of simulations using different mechanisms. Here, we show that we are able to obtain the high sensitivity to rational cheating that is present in literature. In addition, we also show how this result appears to be fragile against small variations in mechanisms. Therefore, we argue that exploration of the parameter space is not enough if we want to support theoretical statements with simulation, and that exploration at the level of mechanisms is needed. These findings also support prudence in the application of simulation results based on single mechanisms, and endorse the use of complex agent platforms that encourage experimentation of diverse mechanisms.


Peer review Agent-based simulation Mechanism change Rational cheating BDI approach Restrained cheaters