PNAS has issued an expression of concern about a study it published where Facebook attempted to manipulate the emotions of members by controlling their news feed (10.1073/
pnas.1320040111). But they only bothered to notice and say anything after the outrage after the fact. 

The sad part is that PNAS has to have seen this coming for a while. That hurricanes with female names study that got jeered a few weeks ago? PNAS. Black people look blacker in a bad economy a week after? PNAS. Unverified claims about feminized frogs, basically a Gilles-Eric Seralini-type study (no data, paranoia) about pesticides? PNAS again. These things all get attention because they carry the force of the National Academy of Sciences, the group so difficult to break into Carl Sagan didn't qualify.

They claim their method - letting someone hand-pick their editorial reviewer and eventually an editorial board will approve it - is superior to Cell and Nature and Science. And it may not be worse, plenty of suspect social science claims have gotten by those journals also. But at least peer review is accountable when it happens in Cell. When it happens in PNAS, the only response is 'that is how we have done it for a hundred years' and, in this case, 'we didn't do any peer review' and 'we thought they were doing the right thing'.

Facebook is technically off the hook, people willingly clicked that little box without ever reading it, and their lawyers write things so arcanely it wouldn't matter if people did read it, and Cornell says they are off the hook, because Facebook did the work. Cornell also gushed about a marine ecologist claiming methane was going to be so bad due to fracking that CO2 would be irrelevant in global warming.

PNAS can't be off the hook because they are the journal. Journals are supposed to be the last line of defense for keeping the public's trust regarding complex science topics. How can we tell the public to trust science on GMOs or vaccines if they think peer review consists of a friend in the academy bypassing real review or harried editors responsible for pumping out 40 articles a day just letting things slip by? 

Yet they are saying they are off the hook, because Facebook is a private company. That is a cop-out for science and the whole idea of peer review.

It's the 21st century. Science was never easy but it's certainly not less complex than decades ago and sometimes we need to go back to the old ways; ask the awkward questions of study authors, get high-profile journals back to being trusted guides for the public. Don't try to compete with open access journals who are swiping credit cards and hitting Publish, you're the NAS.

You have the reputation, you can force study authors to do better.