Is it possible to submit a paper to a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal without PhD? More specifically, what would be the bare minimum qualifications that would grant one the possibility of the paper being published in a peer-reviewed academic medium?
Submitting an academic paper for publication (and potentially getting it accepted) does not require any qualifications whatsoever. You don't need a PhD; you don't even need to have gone to college. There are no educational, employment, or membership requirements at all.
That's not to say it's easy to get a paper accepted with no formal training in the field. Learning how to write a compelling paper is much easier if you have a mentor to offer guidance. However, if you can figure out how to do it without a PhD, then your lack of a PhD will not be held against you.
Yes. In practice, graduate study is one of the main ways people attain the skills to write such a paper, but a Ph.D. is not a requirement. Qualifications would be a choice of the individual journal, but I don't know of any that have a policy of requiring degree credentials from submitters. For example, quite often graduate or undergraduate students write such papers.
As an extreme example, here are some groundbreaking pre- or no-PhD discoveries:
Henri Lebesgue developed his famous integration theory as a young high school teacher in 1902.
Space–time block coding, a theoretical concept that is now essential to wireless communications, was invented in 1997 by Siavash Alamouti as a practicing engineer with a master's degree.
The AKS primality test was the result of 2002 undergraduate research at the Indian Institute of Technology.
It's clear that such contributions warrant a publication irrespective of the author's status.
It's not only possible but it is a requirement at many universities that your Ph.D thesis be completely based on peer reviewed papers.
Another issue here is the fact that in science only the research results should matter, not who is presenting those results. If Prof. Dr. X has submitted a paper that is found to be wanting, then it should be rejected. if John Doe Y who dropped out of primary school, submits a paper containing ground breaking results, then that paper should be accepted. If this were not (in principle) true, then that would mean that science is not conducted in an independent way. Arguments from authority, rather than those based on the merits would to some degree corrupt the scientific process.
I am a bit more skeptical than the majority of the answers.
The first reason is more profane: There are journals with more reputation and some with less reputation. The journals with more reputation have more readers and if you are published in this paper, it will foster your reputation. The direct effect is that everyone tries to get published in the most prestigous journals. So the editors get swamped with papers and must choose by priority. If two results are equally impressive, the probability that the more experienced and reputable scientist will be published is very high.
So the standard approach is to contact the journals in descending order of reputation and ask for publication. So, yes, you can be published, but it is likely that you must choose a journal with less reputation and that means that your results are likely to be ignored.
That get us to the second problem: If you have an impressive result, then the editors will scan your paper more closely. Unusual language (there is a specific lingo you use in papers), strange format (Word instead Latex) and an impressive result from someone who is not known before raises a red alarm. If Anonymous Mathematica claims that "your lack of a PhD will not be held against you", then I say, nope, this is not remotely true. It is very likely that you and your paper are not scrutinized anymore and rejected. If you try to battle the decision, the label crackpot is attached to you faster than you can breathe. So you must be extremely careful to publish a paper as amateur. Especially because there are journals which are so...problematic that publishing there will harm your reputation.
The arXiv uses an endorsement system to guarantee that only people from universities and research centers can submit papers; other people are locked out.
If you really have an impressive result: In both cases, arXiv and respectable journal it is unfortunately necessary to contact someone from a university etc. which helps you to get through the barrier.
So, principially yes, but there are barriers. Do not underestimate the problem.
UPDATE: Some information beforehand. The reputation of a journal is measured by the impact factor and since 2005 also by the h-index. For 2013 Nature has rank 7 in the impact factor with 38.6 and leads the h-index with 829. Science has rank 20 (but is preceded by 9 (!) Nature specializations) and is second on the h-index with 801. So pretty important journals. Nature offers an overview over the publication process and in fact the rejection rate steadily increased from 89% to 92% which I would call "swamping".
Corvus now claims that my analysis is glaringly wrong and gives the explanation that other journals except Nature and Science do not have the need to pick between papers, if I have understood him right.
Corvus, it is your claim that other high-reputable journals both by h-index and impact factor do not have the problem with picking a paper and therefore high rejection rates ? Do you stand by your claim ? If my information is outdated or simply wrong, then I will retract it, but I will research it. Glaringly wrong, yes or no ?
JeffE, do you agree that being of member of the Computer Science Department in Illinois (which incidentally built the ORDVAC and ILLIAC and are currently responsible for the LLVM Compiler Infrastructure) with a very long tradition and an own ACM chapter might give a paper some recommendation ?
As others have said: no, a PhD is not required. Remember that Einstein didn't have a PhD when he published his paper on the photo-electric effect, yet it would win him a Nobel Prize.
A requirement for getting a PhD degree is often to publish a paper where you are the first author. So then you don't have a PhD (yet) either.
What's more important is references. Even if you have a PhD, but your list of references only is two items, chances are it will be rejected, unless of course you made a Really Great Discovery.
References are important because they show that you studied and are familiar with the work of your peers in the field.
Another example... found in the Chronicle of Higher Education (July 19 issue)
Nora Keegan, age 13: Her paper was just published in the journal Pediatrics & Child Health
It was her 6th grade Science Fair project. The judges suggested she write it up for publication. She did. It was rejected by one journal, but accepted by the second one she tried.
If a peer-reviewed journal published a paper on the basis of the letters after the authors' names, then the journal would undermine its own credibility. When you drive across a bridge, or undergo open heart surgery, the engineers' or surgeon's professional registration is your assurance that they know what they're doing; but scholarly publications are supposed to be written in a way that makes them self-evidently good — they shouldn't need propping up with letters after the authors' names. Look at a few reputable journals and you'll see that they just print the authors' names (no letters after!) at the top of each article.
Of course publications want to be read. There is no doubt that anyone who can submit work that is clear, concise, innovative and readable will be considered. But no matter what an individual's personal experience has been, or even the official policy, it comes down to the work, how it is expressed, and the integrity and professionalism of the scientist author. Somehow, nitpicking others' comments seems to be related more to the desire an individual may harbor to be published- even if it's in an online forum!