Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The Hawthorne effect in journal peer review


Purpose—this paper aims to look at the Hawthorne effect in editorial peer review. Design/methodology/approach—discusses the quality evaluation of refereed scholarly journals. Findings—a key finding of this research was that in the peer review process of one and the same manuscript, reviewers or editors, respectively, arrive at different judgments. This phenomenon is named as “Hawthorne effect” because the different judgements are dependent on the specific conditions under which the peer review process at the individual journals takes place. Originality/value—provides a discussion on the quality evaluation of scholarly journals.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Abelson, P. H. (1980). Scientific communication. Science, 209(4452), 60–62.

  2. Bakanic, V., McPhail, C., & Simon, R. J. (1987). The manuscript review and decision-making process. American Sociological Review, 52(5), 631–642.

  3. Benda, W. G. G., & Engels, T. C. E. (2011). The predictive validity of peer review: a selective review of the judgmental forecasting qualities of peers, and implications for innovation in science. International Journal of Forecasting, 27(1), 166–182. doi:10.1016/j.ijforecast.2010.03.003.

  4. Bornmann, L. (2008). Scientific peer review. An analysis of the peer review process from the perspective of sociology of science theories. Human Architecture—Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, 6(2), 23–38.

  5. Bornmann, L. (2011). Scientific peer review. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 45, 199–245.

  6. Bornmann, L., & Daniel, H.-D. (2008a). The effectiveness of the peer review process: inter-referee agreement and predictive validity of manuscript refereeing at Angewandte Chemie. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 47(38), 7173–7178. doi:10.1002/anie.200800513.

  7. Bornmann, L., & Daniel, H.-D. (2008b). Selecting manuscripts for a high impact journal through peer review: a citation analysis of Communications that were accepted by Angewandte Chemie International Edition, or rejected but published elsewhere. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(11), 1841–1852. doi:10.1002/asi.20901.

  8. Bunting, C. (2005, 25 February). Early careers spent grinding teeth, not cutting them. Times Higher Education Supplement, 18.

  9. Callaham, M., & McCulloch, C. (2011). Longitudinal trends in the performance of scientific peer reviewers. [Proceedings Paper]. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 57(2), 141–148. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2010.07.027.

  10. Chew, F. S. (1991). Fate of manuscripts rejected for publication in the AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology, 156(3), 627–632.

  11. Chiesa, M., & Hobbs, S. (2008). Making sense of social research: how useful is the Hawthorne Effect? [Article]. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38(1), 67–74. doi:10.1002/ejsp.401.

  12. Cole, S. (1992). Making science, between nature and society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  13. Cronin, B., & McKenzie, G. (1992). The trajectory of rejection. Journal of Documentation, 48(3), 310–317.

  14. Daniel, H.-D. (1993). Guardians of science, fairness and reliability of peer review. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.

  15. de Vries, D. R., Marschall, E. A., & Stein, R. A. (2009). Exploring the peer review process: What is it, does it work, and can it be improved? Fisheries, 34(6), 270–279.

  16. Eisenhart, M. (2002). The paradox of peer review: Admitting too much or allowing too little? Research in Science Education, 32(2), 241–255.

  17. Fogg, L., & Fiske, D. W. (1993). Foretelling the judgments of reviewers and editors. American Psychologist, 48(3), 293–294.

  18. French, J. R. P. (1953). Experiments in field settings. In L. Festinger & D. Katz (Eds.), Research methods in the behavioral sciences (pp. 98–135). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

  19. Gans, J. S., & Shepherd, G. B. (1994). How are the mighty fallen—rejected classic articles by leading economists. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8(1), 165–179.

  20. Gordon, M. D. (1984). How authors select journals—a test of the reward maximization model of submission behavior. Social Studies of Science, 14(1), 27–43.

  21. Gorman, G. E. (2007). The Oppenheim effect in scholarly journal publishing. Online Information Review, 31(4), 417–419. doi:10.1108/14684520710780386.

  22. Hojat, M., Gonnella, J. S., & Caelleigh, A. S. (2003). Impartial judgment by the “gatekeepers” of science: fallibility and accountability in the peer review process. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 8(1), 75–96.

  23. Jayasinghe, U. W., Marsh, H. W., & Bond, N. (2001). Peer review in the funding of research in higher education: the Australian experience. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(4), 343–346.

  24. Khosla, A., McDonald, R. J., Bornmann, L., & Kallmes, D. F. (2011). Getting to yes: the fate of neuroradiology manuscripts rejected by Radiology over a 2-year period. Radiology, 260(1), 3–5. doi:10.1148/radiol.11110490.

  25. Lipworth, W. L., Kerridge, I. H., Carter, S. M., & Little, M. (2011). Journal peer review in context: a qualitative study of the social and subjective dimensions of manuscript review in biomedical publishing. [Review]. Social Science and Medicine, 72(7), 1056–1063. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.02.002.

  26. Lock, S. (1985). A difficult balance: editorial peer review in medicine. Philadelphia: ISI Press.

  27. Marsh, H. W., Jayasinghe, U. W., & Bond, N. W. (2008). Improving the peer-review process for grant applications—reliability, validity, bias, and generalizability. American Psychologist, 63(3), 160–168. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.63.3.160.

  28. Martin, B. (2000). Research grants: problems and options. Australian Universities’ Review, 43(2), 17–22.

  29. McCook, A. (2006). Is peer review broken? The Scientist, 20(2), 26.

  30. McDonald, R. J., Cloft, H. J., & Kallmes, D. F. (2007). Fate of submitted manuscripts rejected from the American Journal of Neuroradiology: outcomes and commentary. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 28(8), 1430–1434. doi:10.3174/Ajnr.A0766.

  31. Opthof, T., Furstner, F., van Geer, M., & Coronel, R. (2000). Regrets or no regrets? No regrets! The fate of rejected manuscripts. Cardiovascular Research, 45(1), 255–258.

  32. Owen, R. (1982). Reader bias. Journal of the American Medical Association, 247(18), 2533–2534.

  33. Petty, R. E., & Fleming, M. A. (1999). The review process at PSPB: correlates of interreviewer agreement and manuscript acceptance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(2), 188–203.

  34. Pruthi, S., Jain, A., Wahid, A., Mehra, K., & Nabi, S. A. (1997). Scientific community and peer review system—a case study of a central government funding scheme in India. Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research, 56(7), 398–407.

  35. Pulverer, B. (2010). Transparency showcases strength of peer review. [10.1038/468029a]. Nature, 468(7320), 29–31.

  36. Ray, J., Berkwits, M., & Davidoff, F. (2000). The fate of manuscripts rejected by a general medical journal. American Journal of Medicine, 109(2), 131–135.

  37. Ross, P. F. (1980). The sciences’ self-management: manuscript refereeing, peer review, and goals in science. Lincoln: The Ross Company.

  38. Sharp, D. W. (1990). What can and should be done to reduce publication bias—the perspective of an editor. Journal of the American Medical Association, 263(10), 1390–1391.

  39. Shatz, D. (2004). Peer review: a critical inquiry. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

  40. Sternberg, R. J., Hojjat, M., Brigockas, M. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. (1997). Getting in: criteria for acceptance of manuscripts in Psychological Bulletin, 1993–1996. Psychological Bulletin, 121(2), 321–323.

  41. van Rooyen, S., Godlee, F., Evans, S., Smith, R., & Black, N. (1998). Effect of blinding and unmasking on the quality of peer review—a randomized trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280(3), 234–237.

  42. Weller, A. C. (1996). Editorial peer review: a comparison of authors publishing in two groups of US medical journals. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 84(3), 359–366.

  43. Weller, A. C. (2002). Editorial peer review: its strengths and weaknesses. Medford: Information Today, Inc.

  44. Whitman, N., & Eyre, S. (1985). The pattern of publishing previously rejected articles in selected journals. Family Medicine, 17(1), 26–28.

  45. Wood, F. Q., & Wessely, S. (2003). Peer review of grant applications: a systematic review. In F. Godlee & T. Jefferson (Eds.), Peer review in health sciences (2nd ed., pp. 14–44). London: BMJ Books.

  46. Ziman, J. (1968). Public knowledge: an essay concerning the social dimension of science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  47. Ziman, J. (2000). Real science, what it is, and what it means. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  48. Zuckerman, H., & Merton, R. K. (1971). Patterns of evaluation in science: institutionalisation, structure and functions of the referee system. Minerva, 9(1), 66–100. doi:10.1007/bf01553188.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Lutz Bornmann.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bornmann, L. The Hawthorne effect in journal peer review. Scientometrics 91, 857–862 (2012).

Download citation


  • Editorial peer review
  • Manuscript rejection
  • Hawthorne effect