Our own Denyse O’Leary has published an article in Salvo magazine entitled: “If Peer Review Is Working, Why All the Retractions?” She writes,
British author and retired psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple recently flagged an article in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, in which researchers announced that they had calculated that an average of 92 minutes per week of exercise reduced subjects’ “all-cause rate of mortality” by 14 percent. They also claimed that “every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise beyond the minimum of 15 minutes per day further reduced all-cause mortality by 4 percent.”
Later, The Lancet received a letter pointing out that, if the researchers’ findings were correct, a man who exercised for six hours every day would reduce his mortality rate to zero, thus becoming immortal. Dalrymple comments, “In my opinion, life would not actually go on forever; it would merely seem as if it did, in the sense of being boring and pointless.”1
But how did this blooper get past peer review in the first place?
Peer review—colleagues’ prior approval of journal papers—is, say science popularizers, the “gold standard” of science.2 Actually, today it is more like a troubled currency, of fluctuating and generally diminishing value.