Journals under the microscope

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Science  21 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6408, pp. 1180-1183
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6408.1180

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In 1989, the inaugural Peer Review Congress marked the birth of what is now sometimes called journalology. Its goal: improving the quality of at least a slice of the scientific record, in part by creating an evidence-based path from how a study was designed to its publication. That medical journals took a leading role isn't surprising: A sloppy paper on quantum dots has never killed anyone, but a clinical trial on a new cancer drug can mean the difference between life and death. The field has steadily grown and has spurred important changes in publication practices. Today, for example, authors register a clinical trial in advance if they want it considered for publication in a major medical journal, so it doesn't vanish if the results aren't what was hoped. And authors and journal editors often pledge to include in their papers details important for assessing and replicating a study. But almost 30 years on, plenty of research questions remain, and journalologists struggle to find the money needed to answer them.