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Another reason why peer review is hard to fix

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From Science:

“Secretive and Subjective, Peer Review Proves Resistant to Study”

Drummond Rennie was a youngish editor at The New England Journal of Medicine in 1978 when his boss instructed him to take his place on the Australian lecture circuit, discussing issues in scientific publishing. A few days before departure, Rennie sent his administrative assistant to the library, asking her to pick 30 medical journals at random and photocopy one research article from each. He hoped to critique them during the long flight from New York to Sydney.

On the plane, he came to the conclusion that “we as a community had a colossal problem,” as he recalled to an audience of several hundred assembled here last week for the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication. The papers were “perfect” for the planned lectures because they were “perfectly awful,” he recalls—filled with biased reporting and basic errors. Peer review was not working as promised, it seemed. (Paywall)

Still a colossal problem.

That’s why

One wonders why the “skeptic” Michael Shermer isn’t embarrassed by his praise of peer review in Scientific American, “The Believing Brain: Why Science Is the Only Way Out of Belief-Dependent Realism” (2011).27 He sounds so astonishingly naive. As is so often the case when a troubled currency’s value is diminishing, the underlying crisis is philosophical.

See also: The Economist’s take (and a riposte to same—which accuses the venerable mag of offering only pussyfoot, feelsgood solutions).

One Reply to “Another reason why peer review is hard to fix

  1. 1
    vikingmom says:

    Search Google regarding Nazi official Heinrich Himmler and science…in Nazi Germany where various people sought to quickly rewrite science and scientific research to fit Nazi ideology.

    Amongst the hits is an extract of a book telling how Himmler (and willing archeology experts) “discovered” ancient Aryans’ supposedly advanced civilization (coincidentally supporting Nazi faith in the “aryan superrace”).

    http://archive.archaeology.org.....nazis.html

    Someone said that “form follows fashion”. Perhaps that has been true of scientific research and practice…in some cases. Some scientists’ research – amazingly – follows the current fashionable beliefs. Quality peer review would (we hope) question deeply.

    * * * * *
    To those wanting to quote “godwins’ law” against me, the supposed law you cite is only a prediction bringing up the fact that yes…the Nazis get mentioned a lot.

    Please ask yourself WHY that is? There may be valid reasons that citing nazi practice is pertinent to the argument at hand. One must not merely cite “godwins law” but one must determine if the cited reference to nazi practice is valid.)

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