The integrity of peer review is one of the foundational blocks of science. While not full proof, the system is reliable precisely because scientists are eager to poke holes and ask tough questions when critiquing research methodology.
When cracks surface in the peer review process, it’s big news, as evidenced by a June 14 New York Times article that documents “hasty retractions” of studies published in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. The article by reporter Roni Caryn Rabin documents two troublesome studies, one that promised “popular blood-pressure drugs were safe for people infected with the coronavirus” and another paper warning that “anti-malaria drugs endorsed by President Trump actually were dangerous” to patients.
The retractions “alarmed” scientists who fear that the coronavirus has put undue pressure on peer review and damaged the credibility of the process. “Peer review is supposed to safeguard the quality of scientific research,” writes Caryn Rabin. “When a journal receives a manuscript, the editors ask three or more experts in the field for comments. The reviewers’ written assessments may force revisions in a paper or prompt the journal to reject the work altogether. The system, widely adopted by medical journals in the middle of the 20th century, undergirds scientific discourse around the world.”
“The problem with trust is that it’s too easy to lose and too hard to get back,” said Dr. Jerome Kassirer (via the NY Times), a former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, which published one of the retracted papers in early May. “These are big blunders.”
Source: New York Times Click to read article