Misha Teplitskiy, University of Michigan School of Information

Does peer review stifle innovation?
Misha Teplitskiy


Winter 2021
Lecture Time: 
Friday, January 29, 2021 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 


Does the Scientific community resist change? Evidence from peer review..
A common view, articulated by Max Planck and others, posits that the scientific community is resistant to novel ideas. We test this hypothesis in the context of peer review, using the review files of 32,019 manuscripts submitted to two major biology journals between 2013-2018, one field-leading and one middle-tier. Conceptualizing novelty as atypical combinations of existing ideas, we measure the novelty of submitted manuscripts by the atypicality of the journals they combine in their references. In contrast to Planck’s view, we find that the top journal selects for novelty, favoring novel manuscripts even after controlling for the citation impact they go on to have 5 years later. The pro-novelty preference is driven by the editors, whereas peer reviewers do not show preference for or against novel ideas. However, the middle-tier journal selects against novelty, particularly at the desk-review stage. Overall, these findings circumscribe the anti-novelty hypothesis: at the top of the publishing hierarchy, where editorial boards are designed to overcome cognitive and strategic biases, novel ideas are selected for.

Recording & Additional Notes