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The Royal Society and the prehistory of peer review 1665-1965

Moxham, Noah, Fyfe, Aileen (2018) The Royal Society and the prehistory of peer review 1665-1965. The Historical Journal, 61 (4). pp. 863-889. ISSN 0018-246X. E-ISSN 1469-5103. (doi:10.1017/S0018246X17000334) (KAR id:65042)

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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’.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S0018246X17000334
Uncontrolled keywords: History of Science, Book history, Periodical History, Intellectual History, History of Scholarship, Peer Review, Royal Society
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History > Centre for the History of the Sciences
Depositing User: N. Moxham
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2017 08:31 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2019 08:58 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Moxham, Noah:
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