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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Why we shouldn’t take peer review as the ‘gold standard’ – The Washington Post (Paul D. Thacker and Jon Tennant | August 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on September 10, 2019
 

It’s too easy for bad actors to exploit the process and mislead the public

In July, India’s government dismissed a research paper finding that the country’s economic growth had been overestimated, saying the paper had not been “peer reviewed.” At a conference for plastics engineers, an economist from an industry group dismissed environmental concerns about plastics by claiming that some of the underlying research was “not peer reviewed.” And the Trump administration — not exactly known for its fealty to science — attempted to reject a climate change report by stating, incorrectly, that it lacked peer review.

Researchers commonly refer to peer review as the “gold standard,” which makes it seem as if a peer-reviewed paper — one sent by journal editors to experts in the field who assess and critique it before publication — must be legitimate, and one that’s not reviewed must be untrustworthy. But peer review, a practice dating to the 17th century, is neither golden nor standardized. Studies have shown that journal editors prefer reviewers of the same gender, that women are underrepresented in the peer review process, and that reviewers tend to be influenced by demographic factors like the author’s gender or institutional affiliation. Shoddy work often makes it past peer reviewers, while excellent research has been shot down. Peer reviewers often fail to detect bad research, conflicts of interest and corporate ghostwriting.

Meanwhile, bad actors exploit the process for professional or financial gain, leveraging peer review to mislead decision-makers. For instance, the National Football League used the words “peer review” to fend off criticism of studies by the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, a task force the league founded in 1994, which found little long-term harm from sport-induced brain injuries in players. But the New York Times later discovered that the scientists involved had omitted more than 100 diagnosed concussions from their studies. What’s more, the NFL’s claim that the research had been rigorously vetted ignored that the process was incredibly contentious: Some reviewers were adamant that the papers should not have been published at all.

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Q&A Linda Beaumont: Journals should take action against toxic peer reviews – Nature Index (Gemma Conroy | August 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on September 8, 2019
 

Keep it constructive.

Learning to accept criticism is an important skill for researchers navigating the peer-review process. But what happens when the feedback is unhelpful, rude or downright toxic?

Linda Beaumont, an ecologist at Macquarie University in Australia, is no stranger to a harsh review.

“One reviewer of a submission bluntly wrote, ‘I can’t believe the authors used this approach. This paper shouldn’t be published,’” says Beaumont. “Two sentences. I was gobsmacked.”

But when one of her PhD students received a similarly cutting review, Beaumont knew it was time to speak out.

In August 2019, she published a comment in Nature calling for clear ethical guidelines for peer-reviewers. She adds that editors have a role to play in addressing damaging feedback before it reaches the authors.

Nature Index spoke to Beaumont about how peer reviewers can keep their feedback constructive, and how authors should respond when they don’t.

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Technological Support for Peer Review Innovations – Scholarly Kitchen (Jessica Polka | March 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on August 24, 2019
 

The design of critical infrastructure determines what its users can do, and when. For example, the New York City subway system carries 1.7 billion passengers annually, shapes centers of residential and commercial activity, and enables a vibrant culture with its late night service.

Incredibly, it does this with a signaling system that predates World War II that forces trains to be spaced far apart from one another, limiting capacity and causing delays. Upgrading the signaling system is necessary to meet current demands, but it is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars and would require closing stations on nights and weekends, harming New Yorkers who depend on these services. Thus, the radical (but ultimately necessary) upgrade has been delayed in favor of putting out more urgent fires, for example track damage caused by hurricane Sandy.

Similarly, journal management systems and publishing platforms act as essential infrastructure for scholarly communication. While more nimble than a metropolitan transport network, they nevertheless face challenges in balancing needs for both urgent fixes and aspirational developments. Over the long term, their supported features can shape the nature of scholarly communication, restricting or inspiring innovation.

Peer review innovation

Interest is mounting in modernizing peer review. In just the last year, a variety of new platforms and initiatives have launched: BioMed Central’s In Review, a Wiley, ScholarOne, and Publons collaboration, and independent peer review services linked from both Europe PMC (see the “External Links” tab of these results) and bioRxiv (see the section on “Preprint discussion sites” in this example).

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Fudged research results erode people’s trust in experts – The Conversation (Gavin Moodie | July 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on August 11, 2019
 

Reports of research misconduct have been prominent recently and probably reflect wider problems of relying on dated integrity protections.

The recent reports are from Retraction Watch, which is a blog that reports on the withdrawal of articles by academic journals. The site’s database reports that journals have withdrawn a total of 247 papers with an Australian author going back to the 1980s.

This compares with 324 papers withdrawn with Canadian authors, 582 from the UK and 24 from New Zealand. Australian retractions are 1.2% of all retractions reported on the site, a fraction of Australia’s 4% share of all research publications.

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