To minimize this risk RSRT employs a fastidious peer review. Reviewers are selected with painstaking attention to fields of expertise and potential conflicts of interest including philosophical or personality conflicts. Proposals are judged for relevancy to RSRT’s mission, scientific merits of proposed experiments and strength of the investigator.
There are stirrings of change to deal with these problems. Many scientists think that established journals have a chokehold on research by deciding what gets published, and are playing with a more open system whereby scientists publish their findings online - often for free, in contrast to traditional journals which charge a hefty fee for publishing a paper - where they are then subject to a more transparent post-publication peer review. Some examples are PLoSOne, BioMedCentral, and F1000Research. Other researchers think pre-publication reviews should be signed, so the reviewer has some accountability.
Forums that allow for ongoing critiquing of papers after publication are gaining momentum. Examples include PubMed Commons, PubPeer, Open Review. RSRT is a fan of post publication peer review and has long employed this approach to evaluate papers in the Rett field.
One way scientists assess the relative importance of an academic journal is by its impact factor, a way to measure a journal's prestige. It measures the average number of times recent articles published in the journal have been cited in a given time period, usually a year. Journals with higher impact factors - like those that began this piece - are deemed more important than those with lower ones. Impact factors have been published annually since 1975 for journals that are indexed in Journal Citation Reports and have been tracked by Thomson Reuters (ISI) for three years.
No scientific paper is intended as the be all and end all of truth. That is how the scientific method works, and where its beauty lies; each discovery is "true" only until new experimental evidence comes along that refutes it. Peer review cannot guarantee that a paper's results will be reinforced over time. But it does act as a gatekeeper or first responder, trying to ensure that papers that are published in scientific journals are experimentally and logically sound.