It's not that peer review is useless. Those of us who have looked into peer review are simply aware of its problems. The rest of you would appear to prefer to treat this very critical process on faith alone.
'If peer review was a drug it would never be allowed onto the market,' says Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal Of the American Medical Association and intellectual father of the international congresses of peer review that have been held every four years since 1989. Peer review would not get onto the market because we have no convincing evidence of its benefits but a lot of evidence of its flaws.
Yet, to my continuing surprise, almost no scientists know anything about the evidence on peer review. It is a process that is central to science - deciding which grant proposals will be funded, which papers will be published, who will be promoted, and who will receive a Nobel prize. We might thus expect that scientists, people who are trained to believe nothing until presented with evidence, would want to know all the evidence available on this important process. Yet not only do scientists know little about the evidence on peer review but most continue to believe in peer review, thinking it essential for the progress of science. Ironically, a faith based rather than an evidence based process lies at the heart of science.
Jeff Schmidt has also written about peer review in his book, Disciplined Minds. And he points out the following …
The much-touted "peer review" process does not usurp the power of the program directors to serve agency goals. Peer review is the process in which an agency asks outside scientists to give their opinions on the scientific feasibility of proposed research; the screening by outsiders leaves the agency with a long list of feasible projects from which it chooses those that best further its goals. Peer review does not reduce the program directors to nonprofessional poll takers: The program directors select the reviewers, decide whose advice to follow in light of the goals of the programs they manage, and monitor the work of the scientists they fund. The program directors are the gatekeepers at the money bin and therefore loom as important figures for researchers, who if not worried about getting a grant, are worried about renewing one. Physicists hoping for National Science Foundation support, for example, are told that "while the advice of all reviewers is taken quite seriously, the final decision for funding is made by the Director and Staff of the Physics Division." (p64)
It's also worth noting that peer review is widely recognized to not be particularly effective at identifying new ideas that are particularly innovative. Many now-accepted theories were originally rejected by peer reviewers. People who seek to glorify this process are actually looking for quick fixes for problems which are in fact philosophical in nature. The problem of unconceived alternatives, for instance, is a philosophical problem which peer review can never fully address.