such persons to prepare review articles or editorial commentaries for publication. Editors can clarify and insist on the confidentiality of review and take appropriate actions against reviewers who violate it. Journals also may require or encourage their authors to deposit reagents and sequence and crystallographic data into appropriate databases or storage facilities.22
Peer review is the process by which editors and journals seek to be advised by knowledgeable colleagues about the quality and suitability of a manuscript for publication in a journal. Peer review is also used by funding agencies to seek advice concerning the quality and promise of proposals for research support. The proliferation of research journals and the rewards associated with publication and with obtaining research grants have put substantial stress on the peer review system. Reviewers for journals or research agencies receive privileged information and must exert great care to avoid sharing such information with colleagues or allowing it to enter their own work prematurely.
Although the system of peer review is generally effective, it has been suggested that the quality of refereeing has declined, that self-interest has crept into the review process, and that some journal editors and reviewers exert inappropriate influence on the type of work they deem publishable.23
At some level, all scientific reports, even those that mark profound advances, contain errors of fact or interpretation. In part, such errors reflect uncertainties intrinsic to the research process itself —a hypothesis is formulated, an experimental test is devised, and based on the interpretation of the results, the hypothesis is refined, revised, or discarded. Each step in this cycle is subject to error. For any given report, “correctness” is limited by the following:
The precision and accuracy of the measurements. These in turn depend on available technology, the use of proper statistical and analytical methods, and the skills of the investigator.
Generality of the experimental system and approach. Studies must often be carried out using “model systems.” In biology, for example, a given phenomenon is examined in only one or a few among millions of organismal species.