Contributing to the advancement of knowledge is something that all scientists want. But for that, their findings need to be verified by other scientists. This verification is done through a co-review process, one of the pillars of the scientific process mentioned by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in the film “Don’t Look Up”.
If you’ve seen Adam McCoy’s “Don’t Look Up” movie, you may have noticed that Professor Randall Mindy and his doctoral students, Kate DiBiaski, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, have questioned the peer review of the scientific process. The mission, implemented by BASH, is the largest company that has vowed to stop the “planet-destroying” comet from destroying life on Earth. But what exactly is the peer review process, and to what extent is it an important tool for choosing the best work to save the world?
Peer review is the process by which scientists evaluate the work of other scientists who are one of the key pillars of science. This evaluation can occur at various stages of the scientific process, but it often occurs when scientists who have conducted a particular study submit their work to a scientific journal with the intention that their findings should be published and disseminated by the scientific community.
There are at least three stages in the peer review process.
The first stage occurs when the article is submitted to a scientific journal selected by the authors, depending on the area of study and the characteristics of the study. At this point, the work is first evaluated by the editor of the journal. If significant limitations are found in the work created, or do not fit the objectives of the trial journal, the article is immediately rejected. According to the Elseviers team (https://www.elsevier.com/connect/authors-update/5-ways-you-can-ensure-your-manuscript-avoids-the-desk-reject-pile) 30 to 50% of these articles Are rejected at the stage.
The second phase occurs when the article passes this first rating and is sent for peer review. The author invites one or two scientists with recognized experience in the area of research assigned as reviewers. The number of reviewers depends on the breadth of knowledge and the scientific journal. For example, in Nature (https://www.nature.com/nature-portfolio/editorial-policies/peer-review) two or three reviewers are usually called for an article in a diversified magazine. It is important that reviewers do not have direct contact with the study to avoid potential biases in the assessment.
Invited reviewers are asked to independently and carefully examine whether the authors’ hypotheses are supported by scientific evidence; Whether the implemented methods are suitable for testing hypotheses; Whether the data were collected and analyzed correctly; Whether the authors’ results are consistent with the data obtained; Knowledge is added to what exists; Among other features. Journals with very rigorous peer review processes are rated highly valued by the scientific community.
Through these evaluations and their own perspective the author can filter out quality studies that will be published in the journal and consequently disseminated by the scientific community. Thus, three different scenarios may occur:
In the first case, the study is rated with high quality and accepted for publication without any review. This context is unusual because most studies have some features that may benefit from review, albeit less.
In the second scenario, reviewers face irreparable problems that reduce the quality of the study and consequently the validity of their findings. When faced with this type of negative evaluation, the author usually rejects the article, i.e. it is not published in the journal.
Finally, in the third scenario, despite the fact that there are many positive points in the study, the reviewers point out aspects that need to be improved or clarified.
Here begins the third phase of the peer review process: authors are invited by authors to submit a revised version of the article in response to critics and author’s queries and requests. This version is re-evaluated by reviewers and the process is repeated until the author agrees (if all reviewers’ questions have been answered correctly) or the article is rejected (if corrections made to the article do not add quality, existing issues greatly limit the validity of the results). In The Lancet magazine (https://www.thelancet.com/), one of the most valuable in the medical field, only 5% of submitted articles are accepted for publication.
The review process can take months or even years, requiring effort and commitment from all stakeholders. However, these reviews allow not only the knowledge of the authors to add to the confidence in the findings of the study, but also the knowledge and critique of the reviewers and the author.
There are different types of reviews. The most common are single blind reviews, double blind reviews and open reviews. In simple blind reviews, the authors do not know the identity of the critics. In dual blind reviews, the authors do not know the identity of the critics and the critics do not know the identity of the editors. On the other hand, in open reviews, the identity of the authors and critics is known to everyone involved in the review process. Despite the unique advantages and disadvantages, all types of reviews share the same purpose: to ensure that scientific knowledge is based on quality research, strict adherence to scientific evidence, and independent of political, economic, or personal interests.
Returning to the film, the BASH CEO’s refusal to answer questions about the mission’s scientific process shows that it has not been verified by peer reviews. As a result, not only could the quality of the project, its theoretical basis and relevance to the method be found, but it was also impossible to fight against the clear political and economic bias in the exam. Task to be executed.
It is well known that the peer review process is not without limitations, as described in this article published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444765/). Peer review, for example, is a human-implemented process that is subject to error or miscommunication between authors and reviewers, and may not always be effective in detecting potential errors. It is a time-consuming process that restricts timely access to scientific knowledge in the most urgent situations, such as an epidemic.
However, despite the limitations, the co-review of the movie “Don’t Look Up” would have helped avoid the Hollywood-style global catastrophe, but easily adapted to real life.
Degree in Psychology from Aviro University (2012) and Masters in Forensic Psychology (2014). Served as Researcher (2016-2018) in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Nova de Lispova, and Guest Assistant (2017-2018) at the same institution. He currently holds a PhD in Psychology from the Department of Education and Psychology at the University of Aviro, in collaboration with the Department of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Tங்கbingen, Germany. The general purpose of his research is to understand how certain social cues (especially facial expressions and body odors) are perceived and shape cognitive, behavioral, and physiological processes in the general population and in certain mental disorders. In addition to his educational background, he has been a member of the Ordem dos Psicólogos Portuguese since 2016. He has worked in clinical psychology, psychology and the psychology of justice.