Peer review of scientific evidence can’t be bypassed – even when national security is at risk
Peer review of scientific evidence can’t be bypassed – even when national security is at risk.
That is the response of the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science – to new guidelines issued by the Chief Scientific Officer on how government should use scientific evidence when making decisions.
The Society has said that the guidelines do not go far enough to protect peer review and that they cannot envisage situations where potentially important pieces of evidence should be accepted without some type of independent evaluation.
A Royal Society spokesman told Laboratory News: “The updated guidelines introduce some welcome changes. However, we believe that, even in an on-going crisis, independent evaluation should be sought before policy decisions are made.”
Prior to issuing the updated guidelines, the government had consulted with various institutions and societies to question the existence of exceptional circumstances when peer review could be skipped.
Professor David Read, Vice President of the Royal Society, said: “Rigorously peer reviewed research should underpin all Government departments’ science-related policy decisions. And the use of peer review should be publicised by departments, thereby increasing confidence in the Governments use of science.”
The society has also pointed out that peer review is just as important when dealing with breaking scientific news. They suggest that a mechanism needs to be developed to allow rapid peer review, including a clear statement explaining any uncertainty or lack of corroboration with a commitment to seek further opinions as soon as possible.