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Why we need peer review

Most scientists also volunteer their time as "peer reviewers" for scientific journals, checking submitted papers for serious flaws, such as lack of appropriate controls. Reviewers also make good papers better by, for example, suggesting alternative interpretations of results. My own papers have been greatly improved by this process, which makes up for the few times I've thought a paper was rejected unfairly. (Fortunately, there are plenty of good journals, and the odds are against getting the same incompetent or biased reviewer twice.)

As a minimum, reviewers try to make sure that the paper describes what was done and what the results were, clearly and unambiguously. Which brings me to two recent sentences from the New York Times that probably wouldn't have made it through peer review:

And now add to the lengthening list Gov. Eliot Spitzer, husband, father of three teenage daughters, who authorities on Monday said had been involved with a ring of prostitutes.

Police found the soldier, who was still in the vicinity, shortly after 11 p.m., using a helicopter with a thermal camera.

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