The New Peer-Review: Why ‘Unbiased’ Science Is Now Often Misleading

The astute reader will recognize that any asserted scientific “fact” or “conclusion” must be tempered with common sense, healthy skepticism, and a closer examination of those who stand to gain. This is the reality of the new peer-review and why ‘unbiased’ science is now often misleading.

The New Peer-Review Why Unbiased Science Is Now Often Misleading

A scientist or a team of scientists prepares and runs an experiment to attempt to answer a scientific question. This is how peer-reviewed scientific publishing functions. The trial could last for several months, years, or even decades. Following the collection and analysis of the experiment’s data, the scientists write up their findings and make inferences based on their new discovery, previously known information, and informed guesses about what is still unknown. Then they submit their article to peer-reviewed journals in their area of expertise.

When a journal editor receives an article, he or she carefully analyzes it before deciding whether to accept it or send it out for review by other well-known experts in the field who were not involved in the study. After considering the opinions of these experts, the editor decides whether to approve or reject the manuscript, typically with instructions for the authors to improve their contribution.

Peer reviewers frequently pose probing questions to the researchers or contest specific conclusions in the publication. These questions assist the researchers in honing their concepts, reviewing their conclusions, and verifying the accuracy of their data and analyses.

To ensure that journals only publish scientific publications that significantly advance our understanding of the topic, whether it be chemistry, biology, physics, social science, or any other, a sometimes time-consuming peer-review procedure is used.

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2.6 Million Studies a Year

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics estimates that roughly 2.6 million scientific studies are published each year. It is getting harder and harder to tell good science from bad science given the increase in scientific publication—today there may be as many as 30,000 peer-reviewed journals giving academics a platform to publish their findings.

Good science is research that can be reproduced by other scientists, has a high degree of integrity and transparency, and is done objectively.

Bad science is frequently ego-driven or industry-sponsored: it is released to deceive the public, frequently for financial advantage, rather than to advance knowledge or benefit people. Bad science has been and is still being used by for-profit industries to persuade customers to purchase their goods.

Junk Science

History demonstrates how “junk science” can have detrimental effects that are harmful to both human and planetary health.

  • Olive Watkins Smith and George Van Siclen Smith, a husband-and-wife team at Harvard University, claimed in a 1948 publication (read below) that the synthetic hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES) not only avoided miscarriage but also made a normal pregnancy “more normal.” To persuade doctors to recommend DES, drug companies reproduced and distributed the Smiths’ report to thousands of physicians. The Harvard study was at best subpar since there was no control group and the sample size of pregnant women was too small to make statistically significant inferences. The Smiths also omitted to mention that the pharmaceutical business had financed their research. An estimated 5 to 10 million pregnant women in America took DES, mostly on the basis of this junk science. However, DES was neither beneficial nor safe. Teens whose mothers had taken it experienced miscarriages and an aggressive hormone-induced reproductive cancer. In 1971, the use of DES during pregnancy was outlawed.
  • The tobacco industry launched a sophisticated public relations operation in the 1950s to combat peer-reviewed science that demonstrated the negative effects of smoking on human health. Although the link between smoking and lung cancer was recognized by 1953, public health authorities did not recognize it until the early 1990s due to industry-sponsored research that successfully muddied the scientific waters.
  • Atrazine, a common pesticide, is so endocrine-disrupting that it has been shown to convert male frogs into females, according to biologist Tyrone Hayes. Syngenta, the corporation that manufactures the pesticide, did all in its power to keep this information secret in the 1990s. Syngenta’s intention to publicly disparage the scientist’s reputation in order to make environmentalists doubt the veracity of his study was made clear by two class-action lawsuits. It was a successful tactic to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from restricting their $14 billion a year pesticide and seed sales by publishing faulty studies that could not be repeated. According to The New Yorker, Syngenta funded research at 400 university institutions worldwide in 2014.

‘Sneer-Review’

The research that scientists conduct has an impact on their friendships, livelihood, reputation, and employment chances. It is simple to understand how the peer-review process could go wrong given the surge of scientific publications.

The Epoch Times spoke with a professor who worked for more than 25 years at a medical school ranked in the top 10. For fear of retaliation, this scientist preferred not to be named.

“I call it sneer review,” the scientist said. “There is tremendous bias. Reviewers ignore data that doesn’t fit with what they already believe.”

The scientist claimed that some fields have less issues with special interests than others, and that some subjects, such as the safety of contemporary medicine and, particularly, the safety of vaccines, have a tendency to stir up strong opinions.

“The idea in science should be that we just push towards finding out the answer. We have a hypothesis, we ask questions, we test the hypotheses, we collect more data,” this scientist said. “That’s how we move forward. But when it gets polarized, the sneer-review phenomenon starts to happen. Then it becomes a more ideological confrontation.”

“People will try to publish total nonsense for ideological reasons,” the scientist added.

When Ideology Drives Decisions

According to numerous experts who spoke with The Epoch Times, peer-reviewed research that have the potential to hurt multibillion-dollar industries frequently get withdrawn.

Dr. James Lyons-Weiler, CEO and Director of the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge (IPAK), urged people to “follow the silenced science.” Across a range of subjects, Lyons-Weiler has produced more than 50 peer-reviewed research. A contentious study of his was recently retracted.

Lyons-Weiler noted that it is extremely difficult to publish research that brings vaccination safety into question in the first place, and these studies are frequently summarily retracted by controversy-adverse editors.

“They tend to be retracted after critique by anonymous critics,” Lyons-Weiler said. “This is a problematic new development. The journals are retracting based on criticism from anonymous reviewers, instead of publishing the critique and allowing the authors to rebut. That means the critics’ comments are not peer-reviewed.”

The retraction could occur within a week after the study is published or even after more than ten years.

Canceling Critics, a Technique to Silence Science

Peter Gøtzsche, a Danish physician who spent nearly a decade working for the pharmaceutical industry, witnessed personally how his superiors would distort data that did not suit their business objectives. Gøtzsche co-founded the Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit organization with a clear mission to take bias out of science, mostly as a result of his dissatisfaction.

For many years, the Cochrane Collaboration was regarded as the gold standard for objective information, and Gøtzsche—who wrote eight books and more than 50 peer-reviewed articles—was praised as a champion of scientific integrity.

However, Gøtzsche was expelled from Cochrane’s board in September 2018 (six in favor, five opposed, one abstention). Four board members resigned in opposition to this action. Additionally, he lost his job as the Nordic Cochrane Center’s director and was suspended from his hospital job.

In an interview with journalist and documentary maker Bert Ehgartner, Gøtzsche stated that he thought the reason he and two co-authors were fired was because they disagreed with a Cochrane review that found “high-certainty evidence” that the HPV vaccine shielded women and girls from cervical precancer. Gøtzsche criticized the review, pointing out that Cochrane had disregarded clear safety indications concerning the vaccination and removed nearly half of the trials.

Gøtzsche, who was once revered by many as a model of scientific integrity, is currently shunned by his peers and referred to as “an industry scold.”

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,” German physicist Max Planck has famously wrote in his 1950 autobiography, “but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Even in the absence of funerals, science, according to Lyons-Weiler, advances. IPAK is now conducting the second stage of a study to compare the health outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated children. This time, it includes medical practitioner Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon who has been warning about the harm of aluminum in vaccines for over two decades.

Meanwhile, do the issues with peer-review imply that we should dismiss fresh scientific findings? Keep an eye out for warning indications. Ask the question: Who is David and who is Goliath?

The astute reader, whether a scientist, academic, ethicist, journalist, or layperson, will recognize that any asserted scientific “fact” or “conclusion” must be tempered with common sense, healthy skepticism, and a closer examination of those who stand to gain.

Read the study below:

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