The Problem with “Peer Review”

I just came across this article mentioned in the comments on this post at Sociological Images. I think it’s really interesting, and is of definite value in the determination of what is real, and what is not real, regarding the science of body size.

In Search of an Optimal Peer Review System, by Richard Smith, an editor of the BMJ for 30 years.

Namely, it highlights the pitfalls of the peer review system as we know it today. I think this article is a really valuable resource for anyone who currently reads, edits, and writes articles for science journals, and for those people who who rely on those who can wade through such articles for summaries and so on.

The moral of the story is, there are a lot of biases, luck, and basically non-science that goes into publishing science. This article shows how that state of affairs is more the norm than otherwise.

My advice is to always check out the affiliations of the authors, the other articles they’ve written, and their funding. Usually one can get a sense for agenda and possible confirmation bias this way. And trust your logic when reading articles. Look out for sketchy things like small or over-corrected sample studies, data dredges, and heavy use of  odds ratios when reporting results.

The business of science is, these days, far from infallible. That’s why just quoting one, two, or five studies isn’t going to prove your case. You have to use your own sense of reason to wade through things and really get down to the nitty gritty, or rely on those who make it a point not to take any study at face value.

One comment on “The Problem with “Peer Review”

  1. atchka says:

    HEY! Email me at I need your email address to ask you something.


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