On Peer Review

Reading Jennifer Couzin’s article in Science magazine on the Woo Suk Hwang stem cell debacle at the gym this morning, I felt some sympathy for the journalist stuck in the difficult spot Couzin is in. In writing about the peer review process of the fraudulent stem cell paper at her own magazine, Couzin had no access to the peer reviewers. “Science,” she wrote, “declined to identify the board members who vetted it.” In other words, the guys down the hall, who work for the same employer I do, wouldn’t tell me what they know.

I can undestand the need for some sort of firewall between the journalists at Science and the people who review and approve scientific publications. But it sure must have been uncomfortable for her. And it got me thinking – why not make the names of peer reviewers public as a matter of routine? Would that sort of accountability not improve the process?

Turns out I’m not alone. Kevin Vranes poses the same question.

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