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Peer review: Maybe cancer won’t kill you, but bad data about it will

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In “Lab Mistakes Hobble Cancer Studies But Scientists Slow to Take Remedies” (Wall Street Journal , April 20, 2012) Amy Dockser Marcus reports

Last year, cancer researcher Robert Mandic got news no scientist wants to hear.

After publishing a paper on a rare head-and-neck cancer, he learned the cells he had been studying were instead cervical cancer. He notified the journal Oral Oncology, which retracted the article.

“To base something on wrong data is bad, so it needs to be reported and I did,” said Dr. Mandic, a researcher at the University Hospital Giessen and Marburg in Germany. “But it wasn’t pleasant to call.”

Dr. Mandic entered a largely secret fellowship of scientists whose work has been undermined by the contamination and misidentification …

You must pay to read the rest, but the basic lesson is that when pundits claim that science will save us, they are either mistaken or dishonest.

Honestly, diligence, hard work, community spirit – those might save us. Science … well, if this is science, who needs it?

Note: Some retractions, like this one, are honourable. What is NOT honourable is the original cause.

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Chalk one up for why peer review is NOT the gold standard of science. Peer review can’t do anything about this.

You can read the full article without a WSJ subscription. Just search the article headline at Google and then click on the first result and it will show the full article. BartM

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