1 sense I DON T KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE... Mking sense stories This is people follow debtes medicine in. It explins how scientists present judge how you cn sk questis scientific inmti presented to you.
2 sense SUMMARY system ssessing qulity bee it is published. This system is clled. mens tht or scientific experts in field check ppers vlidity, significnce originlity clrity. Editors scientific journls drw lrge pool suitble experts to scrutinise ppers bee deciding wher to publish m. Mny clims you red in ppers mgzines, find internet, or her televisi rdio re not published in -ed journl. Some this my turn out to be good but much it is flwed or incomplete. Mny reported findings, such s clims wder cures new dngers, never come to nything. Unpublished is no help to nye. Scientists cn t repet or use it s society we cn t bse decisis our public sfety or our fmily s helth exmple work tht high chnce being flwed. So, no mtter how exciting or compelling new scientific or is, you must lwys sk Is it ed? If not, why not? If it is ed, you cn look inmti wht or scientists sy it, size pproch study wher it is prt body evidence pointing towrds sme cclusis.
3 sense HOW SHOULD YOU MAKE SENSE OF SCIENCE STORIES? Every dy we re bombrded inmti ppers, rdio televisi progrmmes internet. Mking sense it ll cn be very difficult. Wht should be tken seriously? Which re scres? Sometimes scientists re reported s sying cflicting things. How do we know wht to believe? re is system used by scientists to decide results should be published in scientific journl. This system, clled, subjects scientific ppers to independent scrutiny by or qulified scientific experts (s) bee y re mde public. cn help you mke sense stories s it tells you tht pssed scrutiny or scientists is csidered vlid, significnt originl. mens tht sttements mde by scientists in scientific journls re criticlly different or kinds sttements or clims, such s those mde by politicins, pper columnists or cmpign groups. is ree thn just nor opini. A SHORT EXPLANATION OF PEER REVIEW When er, or tem ers, finishes stge work, y usully write pper presenting ir methods, findings cclusis. y n send pper to scientific journl to be csidered publicti. If journl s editor thinks it is suitble ir journl y send pper to or scientists publish in sme field sking m to: Comment its vlidity re results credible; re design methodology pproprite? Judge significnce - is it n importnt finding? Determine its originlity - re results new? Does pper refer properly to work de by ors? Give n opini s to wher pper should be published, improved or rejected (usully to be submitted else). This process is clled. scientists (s) ssessing ppers re clled referees or ers. Scientists never drw firm cclusis just e pper or set results. y csider ctributi it mkes in ctext or work ir own experience. It usully tkes thn e pper results to be seen s good evidence or ccepted s public truth.
4 sense THE SCIENCE PUBLISHING SCENE For scientific knowledge to progress scientists need to shre ir findings or scientists. min wy y do this is by publishing ir in scientific journls periodicl publictis intended to furr development by reporting new. Journl receive ppers thn y cn publish, so y use twostep selecti process. First, y csider wher pper is fit ir journls. For exmple, some journls ly publish ppers tht re groundbreking; ors ly publish in specific re, such s microbiology. If journl editor decides tht pper is right ir journl, y send it to check wher findings re vlid, significnt originl. A NOTE ON JOURNAL FUNDING AND AVAILABILITY Most journls receive ir income subscriptis some orgnistil subsidies, cference orgnising dvertising. Mny re vilble internet, incresingly, mke ir line ctent free fter certin period, usully e yer. re re lterntive journl funding models, such s scientists pying costs ing publishing ir rticles so tht y cn be mde freely vilble. Less thn 1% ppers re published this wy. Did you know? re re round 21,000 scholrly scientific journls tht use - system. A high proporti se re scientific, technicl or journls, publishing over 1 milli ppers ech yer.
5 sense Publishing in journl is n integrl prt being scientist. It: Cnects like-minded individuls tells m new. A published pper is red by scientists ll round world. Is permnent record wht been dised, when by scientists like court register. Helps scientists to promote ir work gin recogniti funders or institutis. Shows qulity scientist s work: or experts hve rted it s vlid, significnt originl. By wy... proposls is lso used to ssess scientists pplictis funds. Funding, such s chrities, seek expert dvice scientist s proposl bee greeing to py it. in this instnce is used to judge pplictis re best hve potentil to help orgnisti chieve its objectives. HOW CAN YOU TELL WHETHER REPORTED RESULTS HAVE BEEN PEER REVIEWED? It cn be difficult! full reference to -ed ppers is likely to look like this: Fellers J H Fellers G M (1976) Tool use in socil insect its implictis competitive interctis., 192, or this: Hedenflk I, Duggn D, Chen Y, et l. Gene-expressi priles in hereditry brest cncer. N Engl J Med, 01; 344: A few unscrupulous people use this style s in rticles to cite work tht is not ed. But tuntely this is rre. You re most likely to her new dily medi, re is not spce or interest in full references. Good journlists usully indicte wher been published menti nme journl.
6 sense You cn lso look lger reports sme in or ppers, or populr mgzines, re line, to find out wher is published. This lso helps clrifying wher reported clims re true reflecti findings in pper. ppers presented t scientific cferences hve ten begun process but re usully still unpublished preliminry. we sk, is it ed? obliged reporters will be to include this inmti. re is no definitive list ed journls but you cn look up nmes selected ed journls line t service EurekAlert! (www.eureklert.org/links.php?jrnl=a) Sources furr help scertining sttus re listed t end this. SO SCIENTISTS USE PEER REVIEW, SO WHAT? When findings hve been ed published in scientific journl, this indictes tht y re sufficiently vlid, significnt originl to merit ttenti or scientists. is n essentil dividing line judging wht is scientific wht is speculti opini. Most scientists mke creful distincti between ir -ed findings ir generl opinis. Sounds good, but wht hppens next? Publicti -ed pper is just first step: findings, ories m, must go to be re-tested judged ginst or work in sme re. Some ppers cclusis will be disputed or furr will show tht y need to be revised s dt re gred. Just s wshing mchine qulity kite-mrk, so is kind qulity mrk. It tells you tht been cducted presented to strd tht or scientists ccept.
7 sense CHALLENGES FOR PEER REVIEW Why cn t re just be checklist scientific vlidity? Assessing scientific ppers cnnot be de in sme wy s giving cr n M.O.T. or mrking mths test. New usully its own unique fetures, re difficult to predict check list require expert judgement ir vlidity, significnce originlity. Does detect frud miscduct? is not frud detecti system. Referees re likely to detect some wrgdoing, such s copying somee else s or misrepresenting dt, becuse y cre ir subject. y know wht been cducted lredy kinds results tht re likely. However, if somee delibertely sets out to flsify dt, re is sometimes no wy knowing this until pper is published ors in scientific community scrutinise try to repet work. Is mverick rejected through? Sometimes people worry tht new ides w t be understood by or scientists (lthough this is lso n excuse given when ers d t wnt to submit to scrutiny ir s). It is true tht referees cn be cutious unusul findings; importnt insights cn initilly be overlooked. But if somee been exceptilly clever, or scientists re most likely to recognise it to distinguish it flwed or inflted clims. Journl like novel ides scientific publishing brought thouss importnt disies to light. Does - process slow down dvnces in scientific knowledge? In our world instnt communicti 24-hour, delibertive process like cn seem frustrtingly slow. Electric communicti improved it, but good ssessment does tke time. Sometimes people justify promoti unpublished findings by sying y re too importnt to wit. But, lthough some ppers tke mths to improve, if re is mjor brekthrough process cn be completed in weeks. Furr, if findings re very importnt e.g. y ccern public helth n it is ll necessry to check m through.
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