In this News & Comments published in Nature on the 24 July, Tom Sheldon claims that Preprints could promote confusion and distortion and the public dissemination of research outputs before peer review represents a risk of mis-information by journalists.
The article has gathered quite a bit of pretty negative feedback by researchers on twitter. I haven’t seen any positive feedback, but that’s most likely due to those that I follow.
Interestingly, Tom Sheldon send an email enquiring about that very same issue on the 12 July.
I haven't read it yet, but the author got in touch with me, @StephenEglen, Adrian Currie and @LoganCorina about this very same topic; none of us researchers, thought that there were any reasonable risks that pre-prints would promote lesser research than peer reviewed papers. https://t.co/M0aIds14JQ— Laurent Gⓐtt⓪ (@lgatt0) July 24, 2018
All researchers that were asked agreed that peer review wasn’t a guarantee to quality or truth and that pre-prints were a positive contribution.
I think we all made the argument to Tom that journalists cant rely on peer review to say the work was correct.— Stephen Eglen (@StephenEglen) July 25, 2018
Here’s my answer to his enquiry.
Here are my thoughts.
First of all, I am not convinced that a peer reviewed paper is necessarily better than a non reviewed pre-print. By better, I really mean scientifically rigorous.
What you describe in your hypothetical, yet plausible example, is the pressure and/or lack of rigour that would bring some journalists to cut corners to get a sexy story out before the competition. These are the very same reasons that lead editors to publish big claims in glamour journals without proper scrutiny, or researchers to pursue and publish their big paper at all costs.
In my opinion, if there’s indeed a demand and offer for dubious hot scientific news, there will be other means to release and abuse them. I am not sure that pre-prints are the problem - let’s not throw the baby out with the water.
Hope this helps.