Honest mistakes

February 2, 2017

One thing that the feature on confessing research mistakes (“To err is human; to admit it, trying” (26 January)) does not get into is journals’ review processes.

A journal stakes its reputation on the quality of the papers that it publishes, but I can imagine that it can be nearly impossible to check the findings of a given submission. And the sheer number of article submissions must make peer review somewhat daunting. How do you organise the reviews? Who does them? Under what conditions?

In the humanities, much can be checked simply by following the paper trail of references and notes (but even that is time-consuming). For the sciences, reviewing a paper could be next to impossible: does any journal have the technical resources and manpower to double-check every finding?

The underlying problem is one of trust: errors will occur, and they must be corrected. That will require that space must always be allowed for them to happen and for subsequent corrections to appear. We can learn as much from our mistakes as from our assertions – provided we demand honesty over perfection.

Via timeshighereducation.com

Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Post-doctoral Research Associate in Chemistry

University Of Western Australia

PACE Data Support Officer

Macquarie University - Sydney Australia

Associate Lecturer in Nursing

Central Queensland University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Alexander Wedderburn

Former president of the British Psychological Society remembered

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham