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News and Comment

Peer Review inquiry report published

28 July 2011

Read our response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on Peer review in Scientific Publications.

Following the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on Peer review in scientific publicationsTracey Brown, Managing Director of Sense About Science comments:

"Whatever the future shape of scientific publishing, Sense About Science is concerned that high quality peer review is at the heart of it. We are faced with a sea of material that we cannot sift ourselves, whether we are researchers, members of the public or policy makers. Something has to determine what grabs our attention from all that material. There are, fundamentally, only two ways of doing this. We can have a system that tries to be objective. This is what the peer review system is for, selecting what is worthy of publication and further study. There is only one alternative to this - patronage. It might come in new bottles labelled Web 2.0 technologies and social networking but if this was the way research was publicised, it would still be patronage, where the researcher with the clubby contact book or the university with the best-resourced PR department would get the most attention. We are therefore delighted to see that the Committee has concluded, ‘peer review in scholarly publishing, in one form or another, is crucial to the reputation and reliability of scientific research’ (paragraph 277, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Peer review in scientific publications, Eighth report of session 2010-2012, 18th July 2011).

However, the Committee’s further recommendation that all data associated with publicly funded research should be made widely and freely available needs much more careful thought (paragraph 203, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Peer review in scientific publications, Eighth report of session 2010-2012, 18th July 2011). In our experience, most misunderstandings from scientific research come from an absence of meaning and context and the research end-users ask for this context far more than they ever ask for raw data. Preparing and scrutinising papers for publication is a vital part of establishing the meaning and context. It is not clear from the Committee’s report what the problem is that would be addressed from raw data publication nor the other costs and effects of demanding it. As the Committee has indicated the Royal Society is currently looking at this and we should await the outcome of their consultation."

Read more about our work promoting the importance of peer review as a public tool for understanding debates about science and evidence.

Coverage

Science: U.K. Parliament Panel Reviews Peer Review

F1000: Sense about peer review

THE: It's peerless, but it could be better still 


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