Peer review After Results are Known: Are we “PARKing” the Cart Before the Horse?
The peer review will be prone to bias as long as it occurs after study results are known. This allows one to “torture the data until it confesses” to a statistically significant result. When studies refuse to “confess” and remain negative, authors and/or journals generally regard them as “not interesting” or “not publishable”.
Such reporting biases become apparent when we use an “inception cohort” of trials from FDA Drug Approval Packages and compare those results to corresponding journal articles—this approach will be demonstrated with psychotropic drugs. The FDA’s immunity to these biases lies largely in the fact that is it aware of each trial’s existence—and prespecified methods—before study inception.
Why not conduct results-free review of manuscripts and make (at least preliminary) publication decisions based on the importance of the scientific question and the methodological rigor? Two such peer-review models—one of them already underway in the UK—will be presented.