Why peer-reviewed information is important

Though not a perfect system, peer-reviewed journal articles are the best source of information when researching issues about your health and the health of your little one.* Here’s why:

  1. Peer-reviewed means that other scientists and social scientists in their field were asked to review and critique the information before it was published. People with PhDs are notoriously opinionated. Articles often go through several drafts to appease the panel.
  2. When information comes from the source it remains more true to form. Passing around newspaper articles is like playing the telephone game. One journalist quotes another who quotes another and you end up with incorrect information.
  3. If you depend on newspapers you are only getting a fraction of the story. A study by Suleski and Ibaraki in 2009, titled Scientists are talking, but mostly to each other, counted an increase in published scientific papers of 15 per cent between 1990 and 2001 to 650,000 per year. The study found that in spite of this flood of information, only 0.013 – 0.34% gain media attention. Don’t depend on FOX News to sort out what content is most relevant to your family.

Bottom line: whether you want to wade through the scientific information at your local library or not, ensure that whatever information you gather is sourced back to a peer-reviewed journal. Check by finding the link and reading the abstract which will always be available even if the whole article isn’t without paying.** Wikipedia, for instance, is notorious for referencing fact with a link to a blank web page or a news article. No high school teacher worth their weight would allow this.

*Allow me to add an opinionated footnote here…though I believe in following the research when the research is there, I would try the advice of a mother on a peer-to-peer network before I would try information found in any news article on my babe.

**Sometimes more obscure studies such as those published in different languages as well as books won’t be available online. These may still be credible sources of information (though books might now be peer-reviewed unless they are associated with a conference), but just difficult to verify. If you really need to know contact the writer and ask them to send you a scan of the article.

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