Published papers are constantly being retracted, suggesting a concerning breakdown in the prepublication review process. But how can reviewers and editors assess the credibility of a manuscript? Existing tools focus on researchers’ behavior, but not many tools focus on the soundness of papers. A new tool for evaluating papers has recently been announced. The REAPPRAISED checklist aims to help readers, peer reviewers, journal editors, and publishers assess whether a paper has flaws that call its integrity into question.
The creators of the REAPPRAISED checklist were inspired to create this tool after they identified multiple issues in 33 reports published by the same two bone-health researchers. Concerns about papers from these authors had surfaced a decade earlier in a letter to the editor that remarked on how surprising it was that the authors had identified 40 people with a rare complication in a very short time, because the writer’s specialist institute had seen only 2 cases “in living memory.” Others reported concerns about ethical oversight, failure of randomization, implausible recruitment and outcomes, and other problems.
Ideally, such problems should be identified during peer and editorial review, and the REAPPRAISED checklist was developed for that purpose. Some areas of scrutiny include research governance, ethics, authorship, statistics and data, and errors. Unfortunately, the tool is copyrighted by Springer Nature so it cannot be freely distributed, but we will use it in the Ochsner Journal editorial office.