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Managing the growth of peer review at the Royal Society journals, 1865-1965

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aileen Fyfe, Flaminio Squazzoni, Didier Torny, Pierpaolo Dondio

School/Research organisations


This article examines the evolution of peer review and the modern editorial processes of scholarly journals by analyzing a novel dataset derived from the Royal Society’s archives and covering 1865 to 1965, i.e., the historical period in which refereeing (not yet known as peer review) became firmly established. Our analysis reveals how the Royal Society’s editorial processes coped with both an increasing reliance on refereeing and a growth in submissions, while maintaining collective responsibility and minimizing research waste. By engaging more of its fellows in editorial activity, the society was able to establish an equilibrium of number of submissions per reviewer that was relatively stable over time. Nevertheless, our analysis shows that the distribution of editorial work was significantly uneven. Our findings reveal interesting parallels with current concerns about the scale and distribution of peer-review work and suggest the strategic importance of the management of the editorial process to achieve a creative mix of community commitment and professional responsibility that is essential in contemporary journals.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-429
Number of pages25
JournalScience, Technology, and Human Values
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

    Research areas

  • Peer review, Scholarly journals, Editorial work, Royal Society, Responsibility

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ID: 259114733