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Peer Review is a staple of science.

Peer review has been for a long time a staple of true science. Scientist willingness to disclose their research and analysis protocols, data, analysis procedures and conclusions to commentary and debate is a requisite and necessary step to the advancement of science.Publication in a peer reviewed journal is a first step in the process of public disclosure, eventual public debate by peers and the general public, as well as opening the possibility for other scientists reproducing one’s results -or at least try to do so- and present evidence disputing results or even the whole research process done by a scientist.  Does publication in a peer reviewed journal is then a guarantee that the research presented is true?  No, not even close, as published papers have indeed been withdrawn after publications due to failures of the peer review process who have not detected shoddy or even fraudulent research.

For the later reason, I am completely in favor of social and economic journals to require from all papers a mandatory submission of all data used in the paper, econometric/statistic procedures and computer routines used, and a full disclosure of funding and potential conflicts of interest, as is required by many of the medical sciences journals. This is to ensure quality and reproducibility.

Here I am talking about judging the quality and the relative strength of the evidence presented in any publication which turns out to be quite complex but something that one has to do and one which biosafety regulators/decision makers will be confronted when making regulatory decisions.

Scientists or other persons who publish a paper or opinion piece and then refuse to disclose what is behind their paper/opinion piece or submit their evidence for scrutiny; usually fall in the camps of those doing bad quality research, activists or quack/junk science practitioners.

Certainly, peer reviewed publications can be ranked based on many different indicators. Usually top ranked international journals are those with a more selective publication process, readership and impact. This does not mean that publishing a paper in a national or regional journal, then one has to dismiss such publication. Simply means that we have to examine the evidence a bit more carefully as the degree of scrutiny may have been a bit less stringent, but not necessarily so.

At IFPRI, we distribute press releases on several different topics to promote our research, but our internal communications policies dictate that these releases must be based on a peer reviewed publication. So the issue is not whether it is a press release.

We need also to recognize that there are different stages to the research process and in fact some papers are in the process of being presented in academic /professional conferences, reviewed and submitted for publication. This is why most serious scientists are extremely careful about launching publicly their research prematurely without having the proper peer review, as the later may indeed find issues with the research, analysis or conclusions.