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Bad peer reviewed science in PNAS?

What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

Bradshaw: What I’ve seen in a shockingly large slice of the Australian palaeo-science literature is not just sloppy, it’s downright disingenuous.

It’s probably also funded, so … it’s kind of like a failing public school system where true causes can never be acknowledged in such a way as leads to positive change.

From climatologist and conservationist CJA Bradshaw at Conservation Bytes, (offering outcome analysis for biodiversity policies),

At risk of sounding a bit like a broken record (I wonder if the Millennials understand the meaning of that expression), the complex interplay of changing climatic conditions and the sudden appearance of an extremely efficient predator (humans) is likely to have operated rather differently around the world. This is because the variation in the intensity, velocity and type of climatic changes coupled with the variation in the intensity and efficiency of human hunting, would have resulted in many different synergies over the last several hundred thousand years of the great human expansion. In some places, you find evidence of some climatic signal, and in others, none at all.

The biggest problem is the quality of the data, because we are talking about prehistoric sleuthing here. We have nothing at our disposal but the fossilised remains of species, ancient DNA signatures, layers of pollen and big-animal shit fungus in lake sediments, layers of trapped gas in ice cores, coral growth patterns, and tree ring data with which to construct entire ancient ecosystems. It’s a bit like geologists studying the chemical composition of a rock they find on the side of a volcano and making inferences about the composition of the Earth’s core (i.e., difficult and at best, massively indirect).

When relying on such indirect and generally imprecise data, it’s absolutely essential that the palaeo scientist strives to be her greatest critic. But what I’ve seen in a shockingly large slice of the Australian palaeo-science literature is not just sloppy, it’s downright disingenuous.

I’ve written recently about the things one has to take into account and attempt to correct for with dated fossil specimens, so I won’t repeat all that here. Rather, I want to draw your attention to only one specific case of monumentally bad palaeo-science published a few years ago in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. More.

See also: Landmark: Nonreplicated research openly identified

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

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