Weaponizing the Peer Review System

Authors

  • Christopher A. Shaw University of Britsh Columbia

Keywords:

academic quality, commercial interests, conflicted commercialization, forced retractions, historical peer review, pejorative retractions, prestige journals, scientific publications, voluntary withdrawal, weaponized peer review

Abstract

The long-revered “peer review” process, as it is currently being applied in the health sciences, is increasingly controlled by commercial interests that are in too many instances using it as a tool forcing technical publications in prestige journals and books toward certain outcomes favorable to those interests. The “peer review” process has in the last two decades especially, increasingly become a process to serve the interests of the manufacturers and promoters of drugs and medicines. Although it was conceived as a way to ensure quality in academic and scientific publications it has increasingly, especially in the health sciences, taken on a commercial aspect with power, momentum, and governmental support that enables it to be used to against unwanted outcomes that threaten the bottom line of those commercial interests. This paper examines the process as it was intended to be used and contrasts its good purposes for uses to which some bad actors are presently perverting it. The practical limits of the problem and remedies to staunch the bleeding, so to speak, are plainly laid out. There is no intention to give legal advice, but merely to examine recent experience looking toward what can be done to preserve the good and valid uses of the imperfect process of peer review.

Author Biography

Christopher A. Shaw, University of Britsh Columbia

Professor, Neural Dynamics Research Group, 828 W 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9, Dept. of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia; Program in Experimental Medicine, University of British Columbia; Program in Neurosciences, University of British Columbia

Published

2020-07-15