With last week’s retractions of two Covid-19 papers from a pair of the world’s top medical journals, the scientific community is once again wrestling with the question that arises any time a high-profile publication blows up: Could this have been prevented?
Entire forests have been felled so scholars can write papers on “the flawed process” of peer review, in which journal editors ask (usually three) outside experts to read a manuscript for rigor, methodological soundness, consistency, and overall quality. Peer review is rife with gender bias. Reviewers try to block competitors’ papers. They steal ideas. They favor authors from prestigious institutions. The process is hardly better than chance at keeping bad studies from being published. It does little to improve papers.