When Peer Review is Too Slow – How About a Red Team?

[Excerpts taken from the article, “Pandemic researchers — recruit your own best critics” by Daniël Lakens, published in Nature]
“As researchers rush to find the best ways to quell the COVID-19 crisis, they want to get results out ultra-fast. Preprints — public but unvetted studies — are getting lots of attention…To keep up the speed of research and reduce sloppiness, scientists must find ways to build criticism into the process. scientific ideal, but it is rarely scientific practice.”
“An initial version of a recent preprint by researchers at Stanford University in California estimated that COVID-19’s fatality rate was 0.12–0.2% (E. Bendavid et al. Preprint at medrXiv http://doi.org/dskd; 2020). This low estimate was removed from a subsequent version, but it had already received widespread attention and news coverage. Many immediately pointed out flaws in how the sample was obtained and the statistics were calculated. Everyone would have benefited if the team had received this criticism before the data were collected and the results were shared.”
“It is time to adopt a ‘red team’ approach in science that integrates criticism into each step of the research process. A red team is a designated ‘devil’s advocate’ charged to find holes and errors in ongoing work and to challenge dominant assumptions, with the goal of improving project quality.”
“With research moving faster than ever, scientists should invest in reducing their own bias and allowing others to transparently evaluate how much pushback their ideas have been subjected to. A scientific claim is as reliable as only the most severe criticism it has been able to withstand.”
To read the article, click here.

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