Tag Archives: Proceedings of the Royal Society

Imogen Clarke “Peer Review in the Ether”

Imogen Clarke  holds a PhD on the transition from classical to modern physics in early twentieth century Britain from the University of Manchester in 2012. She currently works in academic publishing in Oxford, UK. Clarke’s guest post is related to her recent article, The Gatekeepers of Modern Physics: Periodicals and Peer Review in 1920s Britain Isis 106 (1), (March 2015) 70-93.

Peer review – can’t live with it, can’t live without it. That’s the basic conclusion to be drawn from the myriad of discussions currently surrounding the topic, with a new peer review crisis apparently popping up every other day. Peer review’s ubiquitous place in scientific funding and publishing might lead the casual observer to assume it had been commonplace for centuries. In fact, while the Royal Society established a form of peer review as early as 1753, the practice did not become widespread until after World War II and, as of yet, nobody really knows why. But peer review’s surprising youth is a treat to the historian of twentieth century science. To try and picture a publishing landscape without omnipotent peer review, one does not have to go back too far.

Sir_Oliver_Lodge's_ether_machine
Sir Oliver Lodge’s ether machine

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