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Peer usage versus peer review

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 30 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:451
  1. Bruce G Charlton, editor in chief, Medical Hypotheses
  1. bruce.charlton{at}

    It is often asserted that peer review is the essence of scientific evaluation, but this is incorrect. Peer review is not specific to science but is employed by all academic subjects from English literature to theology. Neither is it necessary to science. Until a few decades ago—and during the scientific golden age of the mid-20th century—there was very little peer review in the modern sense. So peer review is neither necessary nor sufficient for scientific progress.

    The truly definitive scientific evaluation is in fact “peer usage,” which entails testing facts and theories not by opinion but in actual practice. This means that, even when published in the best journals, new science should never be regarded as valid until its predictions have been retrospectively validated by use in further relevant research by competent scientific peers.

    Peer usage is essential to science because it evaluates how research stands up when used for intervening in …

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