Hippocrates wrote "I look upon it as being a great part of the art to be able to judge properly of that which has been written." The aphorism is as true today as it was in his time. One major difference, of course, is scale; today's medical publishers turn out some 15 million pages a year. For a scientist or practitioner to "judge properly" of all that is written within a major discipline is clearly impossible.

There are quality control checks, however. Colleagues, peer reviewers, editorial boards and editors apply their professional judgment to ensure that meritorious manuscripts are accepted and published. Copy editors, proofreaders and even computerized spelling checkers are indispensable in ensuring that what appears in print is what was intended. Librarians, indexers and database producers take pains to see that bibliographic data are accurately recorded; a reversed digit in a year or volume number can make it...

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