Life Lines

Understanding Peer Review

Image from: Collectors Weekly

Image from: Collectors Weekly

 Ever wonder how to tell if “scientific” information that you find on the internet is believable or just plain bogus? I came across a website called Sense About Science that explains how research is published and how to determine if it is credible. They also give advice and answer questions about claimed scientific evidence.

Here is a synopsis of the scientific peer review process: After a study is conducted and data has been gathered and analyzed, scientists summarize their findings in a paper that they submit for publication to a journal. The editor of the journal then sends the paper to experts in the topic for their feedback on the quality and credibility of the research who then report back to the editor about whether the paper is publishable. Therefore, you can be reasonably confident that information published in peer-reviewed journals are believable based on the author’s methods and data.

Here are a few of my favorite “For the Record” articles Sense About Science has posted on their site:

-”Heart Danger in Diet Drinks

-”A Sausage a Day Could Lead to Cancer

-”Exposure to mobile phones before and after birth linked to behavioural problems in children

Image Source:

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/how-snake-oil-got-a-bad-rap/

Comments

  1. #1 Olivia
    February 11, 2013

    This post is wonderful. More times than not it is nearly impossible to determine what articles are reliable and which are not. I am glad to see this post and hopefully I have the chance to apply it in my future

  2. #2 Olivia
    February 11, 2013

    This post is wonderful. More times than not it is nearly impossible to determine what articles are reliable and which are not. I am glad to see this post and hopefully I have the chance to apply it when searching for research in my future scientific papers. I will now make it a priority to look for peer reviewed sources posted on reliable sights.

  3. #3 Brett S
    February 12, 2013

    The peer review process is a very effective one in preventing completely inaccurate findings from reaching the public. However, a study being “peer reviewed” does not guarantee the methods used, findings, and conclusions are entirely accurate. The peer review method allows those who are well-versed on the topic to look at the study’s methodology and determine if the researcher’s work was completed properly and if their results are accurate. This does not ensure that the researchers did not fabricate, exaggerate, or lie about specifc and small details of the study. Without having those scientists and experts who reviewed the process in the room and over the shoulder of the researchers constantly, you can not have full assurance that every recorded step and process actually happened the way it is described, if at all. Can peer-reviewers determine if content is accurate and believeable? Yes. Can they determine if the researches have told the complete truth? No.

  4. #4 Liz
    February 12, 2013

    That is a wonderful website. It is important to be able to differentiate the difference between “bogus” articles and those that are credible as you stated. I like to find scholarly articles on EBSCOhost when I can. Peer review is an important process in publishing a paper.

  5. #5 K.K.
    February 13, 2013

    These days there is really tons of information around us and I am confusing which article I can believe… because some teachers said that Wikipedia is not article (peer review) and its content might be wrong sometimes, but some teachers/professors used it when they teach us… So, this post really helpful to understand what peer review is and what research is. You also mentioned that peer reviewed articles are credible and believable. Is that true? It always happens? I don’t think so. I think some of peer review articles are really credible, however; some of them are not… Although I understand peer review process is great process, peer review paper is not always always correct and credible. And I want you to read this blog “Three myths about scientific peer review”. Great post, Thanks.

  6. #6 Russ
    February 20, 2013

    Of course, that all assumes that the journal itself hasn’t been tainted with political bias. There are some disciplines in which ideology has taken strong hold. In such cases, a perfectly sound article could be rejected by not complying with the ideology (the reviewers would all be those who were “acceptable”).