The Doctor's World
For Science's Gatekeepers, a Credibility Gap
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D.
New York Times, May 2, 2006
Recent disclosures of fraudulent or flawed studies in
medical and scientific journals have called into
question as never before the merits of their
The system is based on journals inviting independent
experts to critique submitted manuscripts. The stated
aim is to weed out sloppy and bad research, ensuring
the integrity of the what it has published.
Because findings published in peer-reviewed journals
affect patient care, public policy and the authors'
academic promotions, journal editors contend that new
scientific information should be published in a
peer-reviewed journal before it is presented to
doctors and the public.
That message, however, has created a widespread
misimpression that passing peer review is the
scientific equivalent of the Good Housekeeping seal of
Virtually every major scientific and medical journal
has been humbled recently by publishing findings that
are later discredited. The flurry of episodes has led
many people to ask why authors, editors and
independent expert reviewers all failed to detect the
problems before publication.
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