1. Rhudy, Lori M.

Article Content

Now, more than ever, scientific discoveries are in the news with a new sense of urgency. The phrase "released before peer review" is heard with increasing frequency. This begs the questions "What does peer review accomplish, and how should clinicians interpret findings from 'released before peer review' literature?"

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Peer review was first used in 1969 and is defined as "a process by which something proposed (as for research or publication) is evaluated by a group of experts in the appropriate field."1 Peer review, also referred to as scientific review, advises a journal editor about the suitability of a manuscript for publication. High-quality journals such as JNN cannot be produced without the help of peer reviewers. A key element of peer review is whether a manuscript is likely to be of interest to readers of JNN. Reviewers also examine the manuscript for flow, logic, and clarity and answer questions such as "Are the data presented in a clear, logical, unbiased way?"; "Are the methods and statistical tests appropriate?"; and "Are the authors' conclusions logically derived from the results?" Sometimes, reviewers provide a numerical score that helps inform priority for publication.


Although peer review may be perceived as a barrier to prompt publication, it should be a welcomed process. Peer review provides an important check and balance to ensure the manuscript is accurate and reliable and has sound conclusions. These are also the principles of evidence-based practice. A thorough peer review takes time. Nearly all peer reviews for scientific journals are conducted by volunteers who are busy professionals and fit it into their other responsibilities. Not all manuscripts receive a favorable review. Receiving a list of items to address on your manuscript can be frustrating; however, peer reviewers ask the questions and point out gaps that the end readers of the manuscript will also likely have. Reviewers, on the other hand, should provide clear, concrete, and actionable feedback.


Back to "released before peer review." When results are released before the peer review process is complete, there is risk that erroneous or incomplete conclusions are presented. Why would results be released without peer review? Most likely, it is with good intent to disseminate findings quickly. In most cases, peer review will ultimately be accomplished for the results to make it to publication, and a report may even be in the peer review process at the time of release. As savvy consumers, we should know what it means to accept results that have not yet received peer review. What happens if results that have not been peer reviewed are acted on and cause harm? I have optimism that the words "released before peer review" are printed. It adds transparency and better understanding about the scientific process and opens a door for conversation. As nurses, we are an important part of the conversation to help our colleagues and the people we care for interpret research findings.


Peer review is an important professional activity. Peer review is the hallmark of high-quality journals and an important part of clinical science, whether research, quality improvement, or evidence-based practice.




1. Peer review. Web site. Available at: Accessed November 19, 2020. [Context Link]