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5 March 2014

Who is my peer reviewer?

Bowers_peer-reviewIn the consulting industry, we often say that our work has been peer reviewed and it’s generally part of most firms’ quality control procedures. A peer review is a good idea – it enables us to get a second set of eyes looking at the work product and potentially finding errors that were overlooked by the original author, it potentially introduces a different perspective and maybe additional questions that should be considered, and it provides the benefit of additional experience on the topic in question.

Recently, a situation my wife faced made me think more closely about the concept of peer review and wonder how much we in the consulting industry comprehend the concept of peer review. As a college instructor, she asked students in one of her classes to write a paper and cite a “peer-reviewed” source. She was surprised at what some of her students considered to be a “peer-reviewed” source. One student referenced something that their spouse had said. Another referenced his drill instructor in the military. It was clear that at least some of her students had arrived in her class without a good understanding of what peer review means.

When she described the situation to me (anonymously – I don’t know any of the students), I began to think about how important this is in consulting. To be effective, selecting the right reviewer(s) is critical. It shouldn’t just be someone sitting around the office who has time to look over what you’ve generated. We should be looking for reviewers that are experienced and qualified in the area that is addressed in the work product. For more complex deliverables that include work covering multiple disciplines, we may need to call on multiple peer reviewers with different expertise, each looking at the work from their own perspective.

The peer reviewer should be able to confidently provide constructive criticism to the original author. It’s not always necessary that they have more total calendar years of experience than the original author, but they should be sufficiently qualified in their area of expertise that they are able to recognize errors the original author may have made, analyses that may have been omitted, or additional questions that may be appropriate to consider.

Proper peer review leads to a stronger, higher quality, and more accurate final work product and is an essential part of a quality control program. Consider carefully who you ask to review your work – most likely your spouse or drill instructor won’t be able to add value to your work, but one of your co-workers or managers that is experienced in similar work would.

How do you determine whom to select to peer review your work? Do you have any experiences (good or bad) that you’d like to share?


Categories: Environmental Planning & Compliance, Landfill Engineering and Design, Solid Waste, Transfer/Recycling/Processing Facilities
Posted By Garth Bowers, PE at 11:16 AM  |  No Comments on Who is my peer reviewer?

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