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      Rewarding the quantity of peer review could harm biomedical research

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          Abstract

          Voluntary peer review is generally provided by researchers as a duty or service to their disciplines. They commit their expertise, knowledge and time freely without expecting rewards or compensation. Peer review can be perceived as a reciprocal mission that aims to safeguard the quality of publications by helping authors improve their manuscripts. While voluntary peer review adds value to research, rewarding the quantity or the volume of peer review is likely to lure academics into providing poor quality peer review. Consequently, the quantity of peer review may increase, but at the expense of quality, which may lead to unintended consequences and might negatively affect the quality of biomedical publications. This paper aims to present evidence that while voluntary peer review may aid researchers, pressurized peer review may create a perverse incentive that negatively affects the integrity of the biomedical research record. We closely examine one of the proposed models for rewarding peer review based on the quantity of peer review reports. This article also argues that peer review should remain a voluntary mission, and should not be prompted by the need to attain tenure or promotion.

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          Most cited references 17

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          Do Pressures to Publish Increase Scientists' Bias? An Empirical Support from US States Data

          The growing competition and “publish or perish” culture in academia might conflict with the objectivity and integrity of research, because it forces scientists to produce “publishable” results at all costs. Papers are less likely to be published and to be cited if they report “negative” results (results that fail to support the tested hypothesis). Therefore, if publication pressures increase scientific bias, the frequency of “positive” results in the literature should be higher in the more competitive and “productive” academic environments. This study verified this hypothesis by measuring the frequency of positive results in a large random sample of papers with a corresponding author based in the US. Across all disciplines, papers were more likely to support a tested hypothesis if their corresponding authors were working in states that, according to NSF data, produced more academic papers per capita. The size of this effect increased when controlling for state's per capita R&D expenditure and for study characteristics that previous research showed to correlate with the frequency of positive results, including discipline and methodology. Although the confounding effect of institutions' prestige could not be excluded (researchers in the more productive universities could be the most clever and successful in their experiments), these results support the hypothesis that competitive academic environments increase not only scientists' productivity but also their bias. The same phenomenon might be observed in other countries where academic competition and pressures to publish are high.
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            The scandal of poor medical research.

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              How long does biomedical research take? Studying the time taken between biomedical and health research and its translation into products, policy, and practice

              Background The time taken, or ‘time lags’, between biomedical/health research and its translation into health improvements is receiving growing attention. Reducing time lags should increase rates of return to such research. However, ways to measure time lags are under-developed, with little attention on where time lags arise within overall timelines. The process marker model has been proposed as a better way forward than the current focus on an increasingly complex series of translation ‘gaps’. Starting from that model, we aimed to develop better methods to measure and understand time lags and develop ways to identify policy options and produce recommendations for future studies. Methods Following reviews of the literature on time lags and of relevant policy documents, we developed a new approach to conduct case studies of time lags. We built on the process marker model, including developing a matrix with a series of overlapping tracks to allow us to present and measure elements within any overall time lag. We identified a reduced number of key markers or calibration points and tested our new approach in seven case studies of research leading to interventions in cardiovascular disease and mental health. Finally, we analysed the data to address our study’s key aims. Results The literature review illustrated the lack of agreement on starting points for measuring time lags. We mapped points from policy documents onto our matrix and thus highlighted key areas of concern, for example around delays before new therapies become widely available. Our seven completed case studies demonstrate we have made considerable progress in developing methods to measure and understand time lags. The matrix of overlapping tracks of activity in the research and implementation processes facilitated analysis of time lags along each track, and at the cross-over points where the next track started. We identified some factors that speed up translation through the actions of companies, researchers, funders, policymakers, and regulators. Recommendations for further work are built on progress made, limitations identified and revised terminology. Conclusions Our advances identify complexities, provide a firm basis for further methodological work along and between tracks, and begin to indicate potential ways of reducing lags. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1478-4505-13-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                [1 ]Faculty of Dentistry, Jordan University of Science and Technology , Irbid, Jordan
                [2 ]P. O. Box 7, Miki-cho post office, Ikenobe 3011-2, Kagawa-ken, Japan
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: aceil@ 123456hotmail.com
                Journal
                Biochem Med (Zagreb)
                Biochem Med (Zagreb)
                BM
                Biochemia Medica
                Croatian Society of Medical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine
                1330-0962
                1846-7482
                15 April 2019
                15 June 2019
                : 29
                : 2
                6457915 bm-29-2-020201 10.11613/BM.2019.020201
                ©Croatian Society of Medical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Research Integrity Corner

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