A “Befuddling and Often Capricious Crapshoot”

This is how Rick Montgomery characterizes the conduct of peer review in his front-page article in the Kansas City Star, Fraud Proves that Science Journals Can Be Fooled (1/14/06) (temporarily freely available online).

While Montgomery’s analysis of the peer review process is limited (e.g., focusing solely on the conduct of peer review for science journals), it is a good example of how issues in information literacy instruction and scholarly communication instruction sometimes cross over into the mainstream. The key points included in his spotlight box reflect some basics of what academic librarians have been teaching for years: 1) note the size of the study (i.e., apply an understanding of research methodology); 2) consider who paid for the research (i.e., look for potential bias); and 3) beware of claims made at scientific conferences (i.e., understand the nature of the scholarly communication and publication cycle to better appreciate the status of a claim in terms of peer review). The description of the time that goes into reviewing a mss. will also be enlightening to those not actively involved in the process.

Count on this article (and others that reflect the current scandal over the publication of results of fraudulent studies) to be a useful jumping off point for many instruction sessions to come.

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