Friday, February 22

Science journal reviewer anonymity at risk

Reading the latest issue of Science, I was annoyed to see that the anonymity of reviewers for academic journals could be at risk. I suppose it's fairly inevitable that this is a US legal case that's causing this.

In this case, Pfizer are engaging in a fishing exploration to try to find some more evidence to support them in a case that claims some of its products cause cardiovascular and other injuries. The case uses a number of papers published in the scientific press. So Pfizer want to look through the confidential files of the New England Journal of Medicine to see if they can get any other hooks to hang their defence on.

In the aim of winning the case, they'd be quite happy to sacrifice the anonymity of reviewers. Most infuriatingly, they claim "The public has no interest in protecting the editorial process of a scientific journal". The impartial process of science journals is very much in the public interest - and indeed, as Science points out, Pfizer are regularly quite eager to submit papers to science journals when they make their products look good.

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