A Flawed Process Is At The Heart of Science and Journal PublicationsSubmitted by Bob-45 on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 05:53
Editor, Prevent Disease
Peer review is at the heart of the processes of not just medical journals but of all of science. It is the method by which grants are allocated, papers published, academics promoted, and Nobel prizes won. It has allowed government agencies to approve untold numbers of drugs and vaccines, or rubber stamp thousands of chemicals as safe. It has until recently been unstudied. And its defects are easier to identify than its attributes. Yet it shows no sign of going away.
When something is peer reviewed it is in some sense blessed. Even journalists recognize this. When the BMJ published a highly controversial paper that argued that a new ‘disease’, female sexual dysfunction, was in some ways being created by pharmaceutical companies, a friend who is a journalist was very excited–not least because reporting it gave him a chance to get sex onto the front page of a highly respectable but somewhat priggish newspaper (the Financial Times). ‘But,’ the news editor wanted to know, ‘was this paper peer reviewed?’. The implication was that if it had been it was good enough for the front page and if it had not been it was not.