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On the role of review papers in the face of escalating publication rates - a case study of research on contaminants of emerging concern (CECs).

08:00 EDT 9th July 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "On the role of review papers in the face of escalating publication rates - a case study of research on contaminants of emerging concern (CECs)."

In the past few decades, there has been a dramatic increase in scientific publications dealing with contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) and the escalating publication rate makes it close to impossible for individual researchers to get an overview of the field. Assuring the relevance and quality of the research conducted in any research field is a crucially important task. The rapidly increasing publication rates imply that review papers will play a progressively more central role to that end. The aim of the present paper is to critically assess whether reviews dealing with contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are effective vehicles for a healthy dialogue about methodological weaknesses, uncertainties, research gaps and the future direction of the field. We carried out a tiered content-analysis of CEC review papers. Relevant papers were identified through searches in Web of Science (Clarivate), leading to the identification of 6391 original research papers of which 193 are review papers. We find that the majority of CEC reviews are written as if they are comprehensive, even though this clearly is not the case. A minority (~20%) take a critical-analytical approach to the reviewing task and identify weaknesses and research gaps. The following widespread tendencies in CEC research papers are commonly noted as concerning: to equate removal of CECs to 'decreased concentrations in the effluent'; to focus on parent substances and not concern oneself with degradation products; to focus on most commonly studied substances rather than those of most concern; to not deal with the corollary of our inability to detect or assess the risk for all substances, and to give insufficient attention to uncertainties and the unknown. Several critical-analytical reviews are among the highest cited, which suggests that they have the potential to function as effective vehicles for a healthy dialogue on these topics. On the other hand, it would appear that the concerns expressed in these reviews have a limited impact, as the same concerns are repeated over time. This might be due to a tendency among review authors to express their concerns implicitly, instead of clearly spelling them out. Our study suggests that CEC reviews presently fail to provide adequate and reliable guidance regarding the relevance and quality of research in the field. We argue that the overwhelming number of publications in combination with a lack of quality criteria for review papers are reasons to this failure: it is well documented that choices made during the reviewing process have a major impact on the outcome of a review. These choices include: search engine; the criteria used to include or exclude papers; the criteria used to assess the quality of the data generated in the research papers included; the criteria used for the choice of substances/ organisms/ technologies reported on. The lack of transparent procedures makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to assess the quality of the findings presented or to put those findings in context. In this light, it is noteworthy that criteria for a good review paper are rarely spelled out by peer-reviewed journals or included in instructions on scientific writing. The dramatic increase in publications is a challenge for the entire research community, particularly for research fields that are expected to provide policy-relevant data. We argue that only when peer-reviewed journals start specifying quality criteria for review papers, can such papers be relied upon to provide adequate and strategic guidance on the development of CEC research. We anticipate that our findings and conclusions are valid for many other research fields.

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Name: Environment international
ISSN: 1873-6750
Pages: 104960

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

An organized procedure carried out by a select committee of professionals in evaluating the performance of other professionals in meeting the standards of their specialty. Review by peers is used by editors in the evaluation of articles and other papers submitted for publication. Peer review is used also in the evaluation of grant applications. It is applied also in evaluating the quality of health care provided to patients.

An article or book published after examination of published material on a subject. It may be comprehensive to various degrees and the time range of material scrutinized may be broad or narrow, but the reviews most often desired are reviews of the current literature. The textual material examined may be equally broad and can encompass, in medicine specifically, clinical material as well as experimental research or case reports. State-of-the-art reviews tend to address more current matters. A review of the literature must be differentiated from HISTORICAL ARTICLE on the same subject, but a review of historical literature is also within the scope of this publication type.

A single citation covering several articles of various degrees of specificity or a single citation covering papers or abstracts presented at a meeting. A subject overall refers to a series of articles on a single subject; a congress overall refers to papers presented at a formal local, regional, national, or international gathering; a society overall refers to papers presented at an annual, semi-annual, monthly, weekly, or other meeting of a society, academy, institute, hospital, etc. The publication type may be used for a single citation with or without the additional indexing or cataloging of individual papers. The individual papers, however, are not labeled OVERALL.

The influence of study results on the chances of publication and the tendency of investigators, reviewers, and editors to submit or accept manuscripts for publication based on the direction or strength of the study findings. Publication bias has an impact on the interpretation of clinical trials and meta-analyses. Bias can be minimized by insistence by editors on high-quality research, thorough literature reviews, acknowledgement of conflicts of interest, modification of peer review practices, etc.

The probability distribution associated with two mutually exclusive outcomes; used to model cumulative incidence rates and prevalence rates. The Bernoulli distribution is a special case of binomial distribution.

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