Feb. 8, 2013 A new guide to peer review has just been launched to help the public make sense of research claims.
People are bombarded with claims in newspapers and on the internet that are based on scientific studies. When faced with a headline that suggests an Alzheimer's drug increases the risk of heart attack or that watching TV is bad for children's mental health, or that pesticides are causing a decline in bee populations, people have to work out what to believe. Which claims should be taken seriously? Which are 'scares'?
I Don't Know What to Believe: Making Sense of Science Stories... explains the peer review process -- the system researchers use to assess the validity, significance and originality of papers. It captures experiences and insights from editors and scientists and encourages people to ask "Is it peer reviewed?" when reading science stories.
A similar publication launched in the UK is now used by health workers, librarians, public-health officials, policy-makers, technology companies, safety bodies, popular writers, educators, parenting groups and local government. These are the people who are speaking directly with the public everyday and answering their questions.
Understanding peer review and asking about the status of claims is important to society because it helps people make decisions.
Bob Meyers, President & COO, National Press Foundation said: "Evidence-based journalism needs evidence-based science."
Dr Virginia Barbour, Medicine Editorial Director, Public Library of Science and Chair, Committee on Publication Ethics: "Peer review is an important part of the scientific process, and one indicator that can help readers distinguish in the mass of science they hear reported every day between what they can have confidence in and what they should treat with more caution. Furthermore, understanding how peer review works gives an insight into how science itself is done: I Don't Know What to Believe bridges a crucial gap in understanding between scientists and the public."
Susan King, Senior Vice President, Journals Publishing Group, ACS Publications and Chair of the Association of American Publishers' Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division Executive Committee: "In a world where unfiltered news and information are everywhere, people are seeking a roadmap to distinguish what is sound, fact-based content. This guide offers tools to help serve that need. What separates true scientific research from speculation, opinion and hype is peer review, which requires investment by publishers and involvement by the scientific community. The guide offers a fundamental understanding of this intensive process and its critical role in advancing knowledge in our society."
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