Thursday, August 12, 2010
Read editorials in a medical journal
One important safeguard against imperfect or flawed scientific reporting is peer review; i.e., scientists scrutinize each other's work in advance. Almost all well-respected scientific journals rely on peer review to select papers for publication. Any study that has not undergone peer review should be regarded with the utmost scepticism. For example, one should be wary of findings announced at a press conference that are not accompanied by publication in a journal or by a presentation at a scientific forum. At the same time, it's also true that peer review is no guarantee by itself that a study is reliable. For example, expert reviewers have no way of knowing if an investigator has falsified the data in an article. And even if a study is well-designed and scientifically valid, it may have absolutely no relevance to most people.