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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Thursday, July 03, 2003

the reappearance of peer review

Regular readers of my Blog will be aware of several previous posts I have made critical of the process of "peer review". No less a person than Frank J.Tipler, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University and co-author of "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" has recently weighed in with a paper on this issue entitled "Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?"

Abstract - The notion that a scientific idea cannot be considered
intellectually respectable until it has first appeared in a "peer" reviewed
journal did not become widespread until after World War II. Copernicus's
heliocentric system, Galileo's mechanics, Newton's grand synthesis -- these
ideas never appeared first in journal articles. They appeared first in
books, reviewed prior to publication only by their authors, or by their
authors' friends. Even Darwin never submitted his idea of evolution driven
by natural selection to a journal to be judged by "impartial" referees.
Darwinism indeed first appeared in a journal, but one under the control of
Darwin's friends. And Darwin's article was completely ignored. Instead,
Darwin made his ideas known to his peers and to the world at large through
a popular book: On the Origin of Species. I shall argue that prior to the
Second World War the refereeing process, even where it existed, had very
little effect on the publication of novel ideas, at least in the field of
physics. But in the last several decades, many outstanding physicists have
complained that their best ideas -- the very ideas that brought them fame
-- were rejected by the refereed journals. Thus, prior to the Second World
War, the refereeing process worked primarily to eliminate crackpot papers.
Today, the refereeing process works primarily to enforce orthodoxy. I shall
offer evidence that "peer" review is NOT peer review: the referee is quite
often not as intellectually able as the author whose work he judges. We
have pygmies standing in judgment on giants. I shall offer suggestions on
ways to correct this problem, which, if continued, may seriously impede, if
not stop, the advance of science.

The full article can be accessed here.

7:54:00 pm