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I understand why reviewers are often unable to spot these problems and unwilling to even look for them: it would just take too much time. Reviewers are all busy scientists who perform peer review essentially for free. Scientists get paid for publishing peer-reviewed papers, not for reviewing them. It’s not surprising that many reviews are limited in scope.

So as I see it, we as scientists need to decide if we’re serious about peer review or not. If we believe that peer review is still the best way to ensure that good science get published, we should encourage reviewers to do a thorough job. This might require giving reviewers formal incentives.

On the other hand, if we’re not willing to invest in making peer review work, then we should stop using it, and embrace the emerging alternative: allow scientists to (self-)publish what they like, and leave it to post-publication peer review (PPPR) services such as PubPeer to perform the quality control.

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Image: By shakko – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14984706

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