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‘Sound’ness of Science
By: Rachel Grabenhofer, C&T magazine
Posted: September 29, 2010, from the October 2010 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
Recently I’ve heard very vocalized distrust from the scientific community about a process intended to keep honest scientists honest: peer-review. In fact, “I Hate Your Paper” was the snippy title given to a recent article1 debating the value of this system for scientific articles. As is generally known, the peer review process involves the examination of technical papers by experts in relevant fields to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down ruling on whether they are published. Although not perfect, this measure is taken by science publishers to maintain standards and credibility.
However, this process has become the object of scrutiny for reasons ranging from the publication of fraudulent science and subsequent retractions, to referee biases—both real and alleged.2–4 In some instances, authors have accused reviewers of censorship, begging the question: Who’s policing the police? To take bias out of the equation, some journals have published the names of reviewers alongside articles; others have opened up the peer review process for public comment in online forums.
Although the scientific community is at odds about the how, it does agree on the what—i.e., the need for some sort of control that ensures research is based on sound science. This debate caught my interest because Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine is peer-reviewed, which forced me to think about the value of this step in our editorial process. Like other refereed journals, there are measures in place to minimize reviewer bias yet ensure the science presented is sound. However, I generally find that reviewers are science-minded and can look at a study objectively to provide constructive criticism that, in the end, greatly improves the quality of the article—which is essence of peer review.
How does the science in our articles measure up to your standards? Would you give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down? Become a virtual reviewer by posting your comments online in our Cosmetics & Toiletries LinkedIn Group; join today at www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=1856030.
1. J Akst, I hate your paper, The Scientist, www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57601
2. S Greene, Peer review and the age of aquarius, www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57580/
3. Rethinking Peer Review, www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/rethinking-peer-review
4. Nature’s peer review debate, www.nature.com/nature/peerreview/debate/index.html (All websites accessed Sept 7, 2010)