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Is science being done the right way during this pandemic?
With the rush to find solutions to combat the spread of COVID-19, there has been a surge in scientific findings being released to the public without going through the normal peer-review process, a hallmark of academic research writing to ensure the information is accurate.
Although scientists are short-circuiting a vital process, they are generally doing so with the best intentions. By releasing “pre-prints,” data is available more quickly to policymakers and other scientists, thereby providing real-time scientific information and allowing for evolving policies. Indeed, this has been encouraged by some funding organizations.
But this speedy approach is troubling. The peer-review process certainly slows down science, but it serves as the ultimate check and balance that ensures that scientists are engaging in the best practices, including remaining blind to experimental conditions, fully disclosing conflicts of interests, ensuring sample sizes are adequately large, and verifying that statistical analyses are conducted properly.
We both have vast experience with peer review. We know it often highlights key shortcomings in research including unnoticed errors, alternative explanations of findings, or important data analyses that are required to reach a particular conclusion.
A few significant missteps, and …
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