What follows is a comment by a PhD (wishes to remain anonymous) on the subject of peer-review. I’ve decided to upgrade it to a post (some editing).
Peer Review Is Not Magic
By The indomitable Snowman PhD
I usually don’t comment. But I noticed that NTZ attracted a new troll, who is just taking talking points from the support group sites and regurgitating them.
Peer-review often serves to prop up dearly held dogma.
I just couldn’t let the so often cited “holy peer review” thing pass because it’s long been a mess. Since with publication on climate science, one is required to support the dogma, or the very least not dare to question it, or risk getting fired or having your funding pulled (same thing).
I would say the appropriate term is “FEAR review”.
It’s funny to see comments from alarmists and the links to the sites they provide. Those “sites” are very often not information sites, but support groups for zealots who need to believe and to go there to get belief-support and talking points – and who then leave their bubble and mindlessly regurgitate it all later.
The “peer review” thing is one of those babbling points. As Ed Begley (in)famously said, “Don’t take it from me folks – take it from people with a ‘Ph.D.’ after their name.” Peer review isn’t magic and has lots of problems, and I say this as someone who has had regular contact with peer review for more than two decades – as an author, reviewer, and editor.
Peer review serves only to provide some minimal quality control – screening out things like bad grammar, weak background work on references and prior art, etc. It’s also an iterative process – a paper is reviewed and the reviewers have comments/thoughts for the author(s), and the process iterates – it’s actually very unusual for any paper to be “outrighted” – either accepted as-is or simply rejected outright.
It’s funny seeing the inflated claims made (by no-doubt non-participants), since the system was never built to provide the claims of infallibility that the non-participants ascribe to it. Some problems with peer review:
- It’s time consuming, and everyone is busy. Reviewers are volunteers, and usually they are short on time (like everyone) and a request for a prompt review is one more thing on the pile. (The best place to do peer review is in the passenger compartment of a commercial aircraft.) So peer review tends to be quite cursory, even when intentions are good.
- Too many academics – and they too often treat manuscripts as being a student’s dissertation and continually demand more analysis and MORE analysis; it’s amazing how much useful material never gets into the journals simply because someone wants more and more and MORE analysis/measurements done to (in the reviewer’s view) nail down every last detail to the n-th degree.
- The process can be abused with intent – and this is true in ALL fields. Peer review tends to stifle non-dogmatic thinking (and the more academic the field, the more this happens). This doesn’t even have to be malevolent – dogma can become so entrenched that anything that disagrees is instantly branded as incorrect; given the number of dogmatic points in a wide variety of fields that have turned out to be totally wrong, you’d think that there would be interest in reforming the process, but that hasn’t happened yet. And, unfortunately, the process is regularly abused to suppress opposing views – or views/ideas that are merely “competitive” to the reviewer’s views (or “side”).
I’ve actually seen numerous instances where the same (as always, anonymous during the review process) reviewers who blocked a paper from being published then state publicly that those opposing ideas are obviously wrong because “they were unable to get through peer review.”
This general problem is finally getting some attention – along with other problems with the actual realities of “science.” There’s an excellent-and-timely article that came out this month that’s worth reading in detail, which discusses “peer review” and other issues that are undermining the quality and usefulness of “science.”
Take the time to read that whole article; it’s lengthy but worth it.