The peer review system is "ostensibly one of the central pillars of modern science," says Michael Eisen at his It Is Not Junk blog. But while all attempts to fix the problems that plague the system have been met with a less than enthusiastic response from the scientific community, peer review as practiced now is "conservative, cumbersome, capricious and intrusive" and "poisons science," he says. The worst problem is that it has created a handful of journals that are considered the "gatekeepers of success in science," says Eisen, who is a co-founder of the Public Library of Science. In addition, the peer review process takes too long, and the system isn't very effective at what it's supposed to do, which is to make sure that high-quality science gets published, and to keep fraudulent or otherwise "flawed" science from getting published.
Eisen says there is a simple fix. "We could do this without the absurd time-wasting and frivolity of the current system, by decoupling publication from assessment," he says. Under this system, a paper is submitted to a journal and assigned an editor, who would make a first assessment as to the suitability for publication. If it passes the screen, it gets sent to peer reviewers, who assess the technical validity of the paper and the intended audience. Then the paper is passed back to the editor for a final decision on publication, and then back to the authors for a final OK. This system has been implemented in PLoS One, among others, and Eisen says it is faster and more efficient.