Showing posts from August, 2021

Telling good science from bad – a user’s guide to navigating the scientific literature

“Did you find it convincing?” That’s what one of my genetics professors used to ask us, a small group of undergraduates who blinked in response, like rabbits in the headlights. We didn’t know we were supposed to evaluate scientific papers. Who the hell were we to say if these papers – published by proper grown-up scientists in big-name scientific journals – were convincing or not? We thought published, peer-reviewed papers contained The Truth. But our professor (the always inspirational David McConnell at Trinity College Dublin) wasn’t about to let us off so easily. We learned quickly that it absolutely was our job, as fledgling scientists, to learn how to evaluate scientific papers.   This is not a responsibility that can be offloaded to peer reviewers and journal editors. It’s not that pre-publication peer review, when it works as intended, doesn’t perform a useful function. But those supposed gatekeepers of knowledge are as fallible as the primary producers of the research itse