BMJ editors defend peer review system after 'weekend effect' paper rejected

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Discussions on Twitter and elsewhere regarding the perceived shortcomings of The BMJ peer review system prompted the journal's research editors to defend the process in a recent blog post.

The paper at issue examines the "weekend effect" on hospital mortality rates and quality of care. After The BMJ rejected the paper, its author Rachel Meacock publicly identified one of the peer reviewers and implied he had inappropriately declared no conflict of interest related to the paper. The reviewer had previously published a paper on the same topic and reached a different conclusion than Ms. Meacock and colleagues.

In their blog post, The BMJ research editors said the decision to reject the paper was made by the journal's editors and not by the four external peer reviews. The editors also emphasized that many times peer reviewers have written papers on similar topics as the one they review, and the reviewers have oftentimes reached different conclusions on those similar topics.

In conclusion, The BMJ research editors said they assume responsibility for rejecting the paper. "It is inappropriate to blame the peer reviewers for our decision, and certainly wrong to put the blame onto one of them alone," the editors wrote.  

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