Science in Christian Perspective


Peer Review

J. W. Haas, Jr.
Gordon College
Wenham MA 01984

From: PSCF 47 (December 1995): 219.

The field of science and religion is vibrant with research papers, books, conferences, courses, and controversies on many different topics. Today, the journals which publish on this theme have an overabundance of material. The competition for limited space places heavy responsibility on those who appraise these manuscripts.

In evaluating manuscripts we are dependent on the intellectual integrity of authors and peer reviewers. The latter are the unsung heroes who decide what the reader will see in PSCF. The task of the editor is to find reviewers who know the field and are able to grasp the positive and negative features of the work. I have sought (not always successfully) to choose reviewers for their different perspectives on a manuscript. Too much agreement among referees may be bad, or at best neutral. One would hope that editorial decisions to publish would be reasonably stable and that unsuccessful authors would be provided reasons why their work is not acceptable. Reviewers need to be balanced in their judgment and timely in their evaluation.

The literature on peer review is fragmentary and the process is in need of serious study. For now, although we think that some of the operating details might be substantially improved, we know of no feasible alternatives to the system.

Potential authors are generally appreciative of the comments of our reviewers. Writers need to take their critical comments seriously rather than countering that they have been misunderstood. Referees are there to detect the unproven assertion as well as the awkward phrase. Their task would be markedly eased if authors followed journal guidelines on length and had their work read by a non-specialist before offering it for publication in PSCF. Authors, reviewers, and editors must stand together in crafting articles that will attract and inform our readers. We owe our referees a hearty note of thanks.