I have been reading some reflections on research and academia lately, and it has gotten me to think more critically towards what we do, and what the life we are pursuing has in store for us.
Some of you might remember another recent question of mine, where I was inquiring about the right way to set up projects based on an open-letter I read about how academia is not what it claims to be. Now I have stumbled upon this blog entry which focuses on the shortcomings of the single-blind peer review process overwhelmingly used in biomedical research publication.
Now it all brings me back to a disturbing idea that I had some time ago; that the quality of the research and the truth to all we do is essentially hanging on a rather fragile virtue, what one could call "academic honesty". We count on the reviewers and editors objectivity, we count on publishers and researchers naive and good intentions with their work, we count on people not putting their personal benefits before that of the society.
As anyone out on the streets will tell you, we do not live in an ideal world and [call me a pessimist if you will] thus I don't believe in the inherent good of the people (at least I do not rely or count on it). I don't see how academics should be exempt from a degeneration in the society that affects everyone else.
That brings me to my question; what measures exist to ensure this "academic honesty" we seem to rely so heavily on? How do we know/ensure:
that the reviewers do not lose their objectivity, for instance when looking at a manuscript of a competitor
that there's no collusion between high-profile PIs and editors of "high-impact" journals?
that academics (at varying stages of their career) do not consider/prioritize "pushing up" the numbers (e.g. "h-index" or "impact factor" etc) when they set out with their research projects?
that grants/prizes/titles are actually given to the better projects/people from the perspective of the greater good, and not based on how well-connected the applicants are? (after all such committees need to have or be composed of other researchers, who else is going to be able to judge the impact and importance of cutting edge research than other researchers?)
I realize that it's a broad question, but I have tried to give a thorough background story to give you an idea about how I got to this idea. Likewise I tried to narrow my concern to one over-arching question (rather than to seek discussion), with a couple of example follow-up questions to make my point clear. I can ask them separately if-need-be, but I think they sit better together, as is.