Lately, there have been increasing numbers of online, unofficial – what might be called vigilante – investigations into published scientific work. . . .

All they’re doing is reading papers – carefully. In an ideal world, this is what all readers would be doing – paying close attention, not taking anything on faith, checking the sources. And all writers dream of readers giving their work their full and undivided attention.

What needs to be explained is why most of us don’t do this most of the time. And that’s just when it comes to everyday readers. When it comes to publishers, editors, and peer-reviewers, shouldn’t we be questioning their motives in allowing these problematic papers to be accepted? . . .

It’s not so easy to excuse the lack of vigilance among many peer reviewers and editors. Their job is to scrutinize submitted papers. Every paper accepted despite containing evidence of mischief is a testament to an editor and peer-reviewer(s) who were asleep on watch.

Their duties are hardly onerous – it doesn’t take much effort to run papers through a plagiarism checker, take a good look at the figures for evidence of manipulation, and so forth. It would take a matter of minutes to detect such misconduct. After all, it generally takes vigilantes mere minutes to uncover them, once they’re on the case.

“Peer review” has too much peer and not enough review.