By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

Politicized science has corrupted the field and undermined the public’s confidence. To counter this trend, notable stem cell scientists have signed an “open letter” calling for greater integrity in the peer review process. From the letter:

Stem cell biology is highly topical and is attracting great interest not only within the research community but also from politicians, patient groups and the general public. However, the standard of publications in the field is very variable. Papers that are scientifically flawed or comprise only modest technical increments often attract undue profile. At the same time publication of truly original findings may be delayed or rejected. At the recent EuroSyStem/EMBO Conference on Advances in Stem Cell Research there was much discussion about the peer review process. Peer review is the guardian of scientific legitimacy and should be both rigorous and constructive. Indeed most scientists spend considerable time and thought reviewing manuscripts. As authors we have all benefited from insightful referee reports that have improved our papers. We have also on occasion experienced unreasonable or obstructive reviews.

We suggest a simple step that would greatly improve transparency, fairness and accountability; when a paper is published, the reviews, response to reviews and associated editorial correspondence could be provided as Supplementary Information, while preserving anonymity of the referees. We note that this procedure has recently been adopted by The EMBO Journal. We wish to encourage other journals to follow suit and would like to hear your considered opinions.

Excellent. Scientists engaged in climate research would be well advised to follow these scientists’ lead.