Peer review: Unsettling ‘science’

journals“Peer-reviewed” science received a poke in the eye when a major publisher of medical and science articles retracted 43 papers because of bogus reviews.

Worse still, a multidisciplinary group including 9,000 journal editors suggests the problem goes much further, The Washington Post reports.

The publisher BioMed Central of the United Kingdom, responsible for 277 peer-reviewed journals, flagged the “fabricated” reviews, which predominately included those written by Chinese scholars. BioMed Central’s senior editor for research integrity said an investigation revealed a concerted effort to deceive journal editors.

More disturbing is the statement from the Committee on Publication Ethics, which identified “systematic, inappropriate attempts to manipulate the peer review processes.”

Peer reviews are supposed to ensure the integrity of scholarly research by having experts read research papers and approve them (or not) for publication. Irregularities ranged from lackadaisical reviews to “outright fraud,” The Post reports.

And if the peer reviews are fudged, who’s to say the actual “science” contained therein isn’t?

The incidents are not isolated. And the ramifications are serious when sham reviews are used to shore up questionable claims, such as the “settled science” of global warming.

Skepticism removed from scientific inquiry, peer-reviewed or not, renders the inquiry ineffective if not useless.