July 5, 2022

Stem cell scientists’ latest nemesis: each other

Office politics invade scientific research
Stem cell
research may not be as dispassionate and objective as the public thinks, if a
complaint by a group of stem cell researchers is taken seriously. In an open letter to journal editors, 14 leaders in the
field have taken the unusual step of alleging that good papers are being
sabotaged, and mediocre papers are being over-publicised.

Some
researchers are abusing the peer-review process by blocking or delaying rival
research, they say. “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”. The
letter is the culmination of rising concerns about the rejection of good
research, and the publication of poor research, for personal or political
reasons.

Sometimes,
they say, reviewers demand further experimentation, which allows another
researcher to scoop rivals with a similar paper. “It’s hard to believe
except you know it’s happened to you that papers have been held up for months
and months by reviewers asking for experiments that are not fair or
relevant,” said Professor Austin Smith, of Cambridge University.

One
solution is to to publish anonymised comments from referees along with research
papers, so that the validity and fairness of the research can be judged by all.
Robin Lovell-Badge of the National Institute for Medical Research in London
said,  “Because all comments would be published, it would hopefully
make biased or careless refereeing less common, and it would embarrass journals
if people could spot biased or stupid comments.” ~ New Scientist Feb 2; BBC News Feb 2

Jared Yee
peer review
stem cells