Though peer review has its drawbacks, Indiana University School of Medicine's Aaron Carroll writes at the New York Times that it is the best system around for evaluating research.
He adds, though, that it's best to be aware of its flaws. For instance, peer reviewers have little training in reviewing papers, are overworked, and aren't always consistent. Carroll cites a 2010 paper in which researchers changed the names and affiliations of a dozen articles that had already been accepted by well-known journals and re-submitted them to those same journals. Only a few made it through peer review and the duplication was only spotted by a handful of editors.
Carroll suggest bolstering the process by implementing training on how to review, relying on fully blinded reviews, and depositing papers in online repositories prior to publication. He says a "significant improvement would require a change in attitude."
"Too often, we think that once a paper gets through peer review, it's 'truth,'" he says. Instead, Carroll suggests a shift in mindset to realize that research needs "to be reconsidered as new evidence comes to light, and subjected to more thorough post-publication review."