Peer review should not be used as a marker of the ultimate truth, write Paul Thacker, a former Senate Finance Committee staffer, and Jon Tennant, a research fellow at the Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity, in an op-ed appearing in the Washington Post.
They write that a lack of peer review — or claims of a lack of peer review — of some studies and reports has enabled politicians and others to dismiss research findings. At the same time, they note that peer review has given a veneer of respectability to research that may otherwise be shoddy or influenced by special interest groups.
Instead, Thacker and Tennant say peer review should be viewed as it is, a process that can be influenced by the people who are involved, but not one that imparts a "gold standard." They further argue that its limitations should be more clearly communicated to the public. "With more transparency about the publication process, we might have a more nuanced understanding of how knowledge is built — and fewer people taking 'peer-reviewed' to mean settled truth," they write at the Post.