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Peer review: Snail declared extinct turns up again, no retraction issued?

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Rhachistia aldabrae shell.png
“Rhachistia aldabrae shell”/Eduard von Martens, Carl Arend Friedrich Wiegmann

From Breitbart News:

As we reported ten days ago under the heading Extinct Giant Snail Killed By Climate Change Crawls Back From The Dead, the sorry tale began in 2007 with the publication in one of the Royal Society’s journals Biology Letters of a “peer-reviewed” study by Justin Gerlach.

Gerlach’s study claimed that the Aldabra Banded Snail (Rhachistia aldabrae) had gone extinct in the late 1990s due to climate change.

However, this was immediately disputed by four experts in the field, led by Oxford University ecologist Clive Hambler who argued that there simply wasn’t enough evidence to justify to claim, and urged Biology Letters to print their prepared rebuttal.

It said: “The vast majority of the habitat is virtually inaccessible and has never been visited. It is unwise to declare this species extinct after a gap in known records of ten years. We predict ‘rediscovery’ when resources permit.”

Biology Letters refused to publish the rebuttal because it did not pass peer review by the same peer reviewers of the first paper.

Then the scientifically clueless snail turned up again.

James Delingpole asks,

Why, given that it has now been demonstrated beyond all doubt, that the J Gerlach paper was seriously flawed, is Biology Letters still procrastinating about printing a retraction? Hambler has suggested that it publish the original 2007 rebuttal he prepared with his three expert colleagues, one of whom unfortunately has since died. But Biology Letters is demanding Hambler submit a completely new paper which – apparently without irony – it insists must be subject to “peer review.”

Actually, that seems reasonable to some of us. Any two of the giant snails will do as peer reviewers.

Meanwhile, the supposedly extinct snail featured in handwringers about climate change extinguishing species. From Delingpole:

Snailgate is only the latest in a series of scandals to beset the Royal Society and its activist president Sir Paul Nurse. Founded in 1660 by luminaries including Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren, the Royal Society was for over three hundred years renowned as the world’s pre-eminent scientific institution. However, under its last three presidents, it has been accused of abandoning the scientific method and the pursuit of pure knowledge in favour of political advocacy and media campaigning.

Just when they had everyone but the snails convinced, too.

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6 Replies to “Peer review: Snail declared extinct turns up again, no retraction issued?

  1. 1
    PaV says:

    Nothing captures better the sorry state of science these days. Political correctness has now formed a hybrid with scientific dogma. And under the guillotine, we find Truth.

    Let the Jacobins begin.

  2. 2
    Querius says:

    Colorful, but true, PaV.

    -Q

  3. 3
    David Tyler says:

    I am sure there are lessons here relating to the use of statistics in biology. Here is the relevant text from the 2007 paper:
    “Probability of population survival is shown in table 1, indicating that there would be no significant probability of survival (p less than 0.05) by 2012. These calculations indicate that the species is probably already extinct as a 95% probability of extinction is attained when the critical value of the last sighting (Solon 1993) is exceeded; this is calculated in 2006 (critical value of 102 years from the first record).”
    In my opinion, Biology Letters owes the world a retraction statement, because the paper (which has been cited numerous times) has been falsified and this needs to be formally acknowledged by the journal.

  4. 4
    anthropic says:

    Maybe they think the snail really will be extinct if they wait long enough…

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    I predict that peer review will go extinct before snails.

  6. 6
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Biomimicry – the retraction is coming in at a snail’s pace.

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