The basis of the peer review process is that any research paper is forwarded to a group of experts in the field, and they assess its quality, accuracy and, often, novelty.
Whilst most people are aware of peer review processes for scientific journals, they are also used for grant applications, conference papers and textbooks for University Press-publishers.
This is extremely important because of the way in which research is built up, with all research relying upon the findings of previous researchers in the field. If a piece of research is later found to be inaccurate, flawed or a fraud, then the viability of all the research built upon it is brought into question.
Whilst every journal or grant application process has its own protocols, they all follow the same basic structure.
Generally speaking, the editor’s word is final, and the referees are there on a purely consultation basis.
Ideally, all stages of the process are independent, and the referees do not consult with each other, nor are they even aware of each other’s identity, to ensure impartiality. If the two peers disagree, then the editor makes the final decision, although high profile, prestige journals often send the paper to another reviewer for a decision.
Authors may appeal a rejection of their paper by the editors. In the case of a formal appeal, the paper and all relevant information, including the identities of the referees, will be sent to a member of the Editorial Board. The Board member may review the case on the existing record or may seek additional expert opinion. The Board member will present an advisory opinion to the editors, which will be sent to authors and/or referees with the Board member's name.