September 12th, 2009

Peer Review Doesn’t Make Perfect

While we all know to read critically any information we locate on the free world wide web, sometime there’s a tendency to forget to read critically when it comes to published magazines and journals. Especially when it comes to Peer Reviewed journals, as they are referred to as the Gold Standard of Academic Publishing.

But as shown in this humorous account from professor Dr. Rick Trebino about attempting to publish in one of those journals, there clearly is room for bias and missing opposing voices. Dr. Trebino attempted to publish a comment to a scientific study published in the “most prestigious journal” of his field that he found to have drawn conclusions on badly calculated data. When he attempts to publish a comment pointing out that the study is wrong and how, a very long and ridiculous process ensued.

The reason this sadly funny situation is important is because it points out that bias does exist and some voices are not heard in scholarly publishing, and mistakes do happen and make their way through peer review onto the printed page. Always reading critically looking at the conclusions the researchers have drawn, the research methodology they used and how well they executed it, the data collected, and other aspects of scholarly papers is a good practice. The fact that the paper Dr. Trebino discredited was published in the first place shows that even when a study is reviewed by 3 scholarly reviewers, mistakes do make their way to publication only to be refuted later.

-Sommer

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