Journals are exploring new approaches to peer review in order to reduce bias, increase transparency and respond to author preferences. Funders are also getting involved. If you start reading about the subject of peer review, it won't be long before you encounter articles with titles like Can we trust peer review?, Is peer review just a crapshoot? and It's time to overhaul the secretive peer review process. Read some more and you will learn that despite its many shortcomings – it is slow, it is biased, and it lets flawed papers get published while rejecting work that goes on to win Nobel Prizes – the practice of having your work reviewed by your peers before it is published is still regarded as the 'gold standard' of scientific research. Carry on reading and you will discover that peer review as currently practiced is a relatively new phenomenon and that, ironically, there have been remarkably few peer-reviewed studies of peer review.