This article traces the history of peer review of scientific publications, plotting the development of the process from its inception to its present-day application. We discuss the merits of peer review and its weaknesses, both perceived and real, as well as the practicalities of several major proposed changes to the system. It is our hope that readers will gain a better appreciation of the complexities of the process and, when serving as reviewers themselves, will do so in a manner that will enhance the utility of the exercise. We also propose the development of an international on-line training program for accreditation of potential referees. Copyright © 2007 The American Physiological Society.