Young Scientists Encourage the Public to Demand Peer Review

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It seems that more and more policy makers, advocacy groups, advertisers and media pundits are making claims based on science: this kind of potion is good for your health, that chemical is bad for the environment, this new technology can reduce crime. How is the public supposed to know what to believe?

The peer review system can help cut through the uncertainty and obfuscation. Yet few members of the public other than scientists know what peer review is or how it can be used.

A charitable trust based in London called Sense about Science aims to change that inadequacy. It is promoting several initiatives to help the average citizen learn how to question scientific claims and to encourage people to demand that anyone providing“scientific“ results reveal whether those results have been peer reviewed.

On February 13, for example, Sense about Science launched a U.S. campaign called Ask for Evidence to prompt people to question scientific-sounding information. Leaders from the organization held a “boot camp“ at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Mass., where men and women in its Voice of Young Science USA program planned ways to spread the campaign nationwide. They also decided to target several specific topics:dietary supplements, gun control policy and fracking for natural gas, as well aschanging weather patterns, so-called superfoods, vaccinations, alternative medicine and radiation. The program encourages early career researchers to play an active role in public debates about science.

Written By: Mark Fischetti
continue to source article at blogs.scientificamerican.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. A noble cause! I hope it gets off the ground and is successful. However, one should note that peer review does not guarantee quality. Some journals, particularly in nutrition and medicine, are peer reviewed yet allow papers to be published that are glaringly obvious bad science. It always makes me wonder who reviewed them. Their mothers?

  2. I love this idea! The photo says it all “Ask for Evidence. That should be every rational thinker’s motto. Kids were taught to “just say no.” Maybe they should be taught to “Ask for Evidence.” In this age of technology, evidence should be easy to provide via internet. If you’re walking through a department store and a salesperson asks you to try a product that is “clinically proven” to make you look younger in 30 days due to a special chemical only found in pretty flowers in the south of France – ask for evidence. Perhaps there is room for a few more Ralph Naders.

    • In reply to #2 by QuestioningKat:

      ” In this age of technology, evidence should be easy to provide via internet. If you’re walking through a department store and a salesperson asks you to try a product that is “clinically proven” to make you look younger in 30 days due to a special chemical only found in pretty flowers in the south of France – ask for evidence. Perhaps there is room for a few more Ralph Naders.

      The problem with this is that the sales assistants (who may well know nothing about evidence), will have been given a script of plausible high-sounding answers, – as they have been for homoeopathic remedies. (Certified by the Professor of Quackology at the college of diploma-mill.)

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