Peer Review of Peer Review

Global Warmeners make much of the fact that some of the research they rely on is peer reviewed, implying that ensures accuracy. But peer review is closer to the mob rule we see on Digg.

Here’s Dr. Robert Higgs, who has been involved with the process for 39 years (hat tip JunkScience):

Peer review, on which lay people place great weight, varies from important, where the editors and the referees are competent and responsible, to a complete farce, where they are not.

As a rule, not surprisingly, the process operates somewhere in the middle, being more than a joke but less than the nearly flawless system of Olympian scrutiny that outsiders imagine it to be.

Any journal editor who desires, for whatever reason, to knock down a submission can easily do so by choosing referees he knows full well will knock it down; likewise, he can easily obtain favorable referee reports….

Scientific innovators or creative eccentrics always strike the great mass of practitioners as nut cases―until it becomes impossible to deny their findings, a time that often comes only after one generation’s professional ring-masters have died off.

Science is an odd undertaking: everybody strives to make the next breakthrough, yet when someone does, he is often greeted as if he were carrying the ebola virus.

Dr. Higgs points out that a similar process corrupts the allocation of funding:

Modern biological and physical science is, overwhelmingly, government-funded science…

When your research implies a “need” for drastic government action to avert a looming disaster or to allay some dire existing problem, government bureaucrats and legislators (can you say “earmarks”?) are more likely to approve it.

Thus the “consensus” view in any area of biological and physical science is corrupted by group dynamics.

So we should look to outliers for the truth – for example, failed teachers working for the Swiss Patent Office.

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2 Responses to Peer Review of Peer Review

  1. dearieme says:

    His experience pretty much accords with mine. Reviewers are not God-like neutral umpires. Except me.

  2. gandalf says:

    dearieme

    I’m sure you’re in the God-like neutral category!

    As for the rest, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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