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Author Topic:   Refereed (peer reviewed) Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?
randman 
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Message 1 of 24 (452680)
01-31-2008 12:53 AM


Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?

....
Today, Einstein’s papers would be sent to some total nonentity at Podunk U, who, being completely incapable of understanding important new ideas, would reject the papers for publication. “Peer” review is very unlikely to be peer review for the Einsteins of the world. We have a scientific social system in which intellectual pygmies are standing in judgment of giants.
....
Philip Anderson, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics opines that “in the early part of the postwar [post-WWII] period [a scientist’s] career was science-driven, motivated mostly by absorption with the great enterprise of discovery, and by genuine curiosity as to how nature operates. By the last decade of the century far too many, especially of the young people, were seeing science as a competitive interpersonal game, in which the winner was not the one who was objectively right as [to] the nature of scientific reality, but the one who was successful at getting grants, publishing in Physical Review Letters, and being noticed in the news pages of Nature, Science, or Physics Today....

http://www.iscid.org/papers/Tipler_PeerReview_070103.pdf

I think Tipler is correct that the peer-review process via refereed journals is deeply flawed and serves as much to simply enforce orthodoxy as to insure quality. He gives many good examples to back up his point.

Edited by randman, : No reason given.

Edited by randman, : No reason given.

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Changed topic title from "a harsh word on peer-review....good article" to "Refereed (peer reviewed) Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?" Also fixed some odd line breaks.


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Adminnemooseus
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Message 2 of 24 (452688)
01-31-2008 1:40 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
PaulK
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Joined: 01-10-2003
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Message 3 of 24 (452691)
01-31-2008 1:53 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by randman
01-31-2008 12:53 AM


If creationists or the ID movement could show a stream of good quality papers that had been unfairly rejected this subject migbt be relevant. However, they cannot. If they had, then maybe the attempt to create an ID journal (PCID) would have been less of a failure.

The peer review system is not perfect but the attacks on it from the ID movement are just an attempt to cover up the fact that they don't produce much worthy of publication.


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randman 
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Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 4 of 24 (452692)
01-31-2008 1:58 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
01-31-2008 1:53 AM


did you read the article?
just curious......can you post something about the article along with ranting against ID?

Tipler talks of some specific ID papers, in physics not biology, that he faced serious criticism over, and he was nearly denied tenure and was denied grants because of his ID or creationist stances, in physics though, not biology.


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Adminnemooseus
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Message 5 of 24 (452697)
01-31-2008 2:24 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
01-31-2008 1:53 AM


I agree with Randman's message 4
Not that I've done more than lightly skim a bit of it - I do think the article is worthy of some serious consideration. This topic has the potential (I'm a dreamer...) to be more that the standard "IDers don't and can't publish in peer reviewed / refereed journals" spiel and counter-spiel.

I think the question might involve judging the difference between the unorthodox and the crackpot.

Or something like that.

Adminnemooseus


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PaulK
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Member Rating: 1.9


Message 6 of 24 (452698)
01-31-2008 2:28 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by randman
01-31-2008 1:58 AM


Re: did you read the article?
I had read the paper when it first came out and knew that it did not address the major issue in the question of whether ID research is being unfairly suppressed. Flaws in the peer review process cannot affect papers that do not exist or are never submitted for review. Nor can it be said that the review process is wrong to reject papers of low quality. It must also be acknowledged that it is not unusual for papers to be rejected - many papers go through a series of submissions before being accepted (especially those submitted to Science and Nature, which have very high rejection rates).

On rereading it it seem that Tipler has a bad case of sour grapes. What little he says about the papers you appear to mean does not convince me of their quality - quite the reverse. Indeed it sounds to me as if Tipler is failing to distinguish between proof and speculation - and religious apologetics.

quote:

...he was nearly denied tenure and was denied grants because of his ID or creationist stances, in physics though, not biology.

That is seriously confused. Firstly the risk to tenure he mentions is simply a lack of grants, so to list the two as separate is misleading. Secondly Tipler only cites one reviewer as being concerned about his views - and those were his views on extra-terrestrial intelligence, not ID. We can't tell from that little anecdote how important that concern was, or even if other reviewers shared it (nor how it relates to the grants). And to top it all Tipler attribute the reviewers attitude to papers (plural) that were published. If the peer review process is so badly broken, how did that happen ?


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randman 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2980 days)
Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 7 of 24 (452700)
01-31-2008 2:46 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by PaulK
01-31-2008 2:28 AM


Re: did you read the article?
well, you expressed your opinion. Here are some examples Tipler points to where the peer-review process resisted truth.

If one reads memoirs or biographies of physicists who made their great breakthroughs after, say, 1950, one is struck by how often one reads that “the referees rejected for publication the paper that later won me the Nobel Prize.” One example is Rosalyn Yalow, who described how her Nobel-prize-winning paper was received by the journals. “In 1955 we submitted the paper to Science.... The paper was held there for eight months before it was reviewed. It was finally rejected. We submitted it to the Journal of Clinical nvestigations, which also rejected it.” (Quoted from The Joys of Research, edited by Walter Shropshire, p. 109).

Another example is Günter Blobel, who in a news conference given just after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, said that the main problem one encounters in one’s research is “when your grants and papers are rejected because some stupid reviewer rejected them for dogmatic adherence to old ideas.” According to the New York Times (October 12, 1999, p. A29), these comments “drew thunderous applause from the hundreds of sympathetic colleagues and younger scientists in the auditorium.”

In an article for Twentieth Century Physics, a book commissioned by the American Physical Society (the professional organization for U.S. physicists) to describe the great achievements of 20th century physics, the inventor of chaos theory, Mitchell J. Feigenbaum,
described the reception that his revolutionary papers on chaos theory received: Both papers were rejected, the first after a half-year delay. By then, in 1977, over a thousand copies of the first preprint had been shipped. This has been my full experience. Papers on established subjects are immediately accepted. Every novel paper of mine, without exception, has been rejected by the refereeing process. The reader can easily gather that I regard this entire process as a false guardian and wastefully dishonest. (Volume III, p. 1850).

Earlier in the same volume on 20th century physics, in a history of the development of optical physics, the invention of the laser by Theodore Maiman was described. The result was so important that it was announced in the New York Times on July 7, 1960. But the leading
American physics journal, Physical Review Letters, rejected Maiman’s paper on how to make a laser (p. 1426).
Scientific eminence is no protection from a peer review system gone wild. John Bardeen, the only man to ever have won two Nobel Prizes in physics, had difficulty publishing a theory in low-temperature solid state physics (the area of one of his Prizes) that went against the established view. But rank hath its privileges. Bardeen appealed to his friend David Lazarus,who was editor in chief for the American Physical Society. Lazarus investigated and found that “the referee was totally out of line. I couldn’t believe it. John really did have a hard time with [his] last few papers and it was not his fault at all. They were important papers, they did get published, but they gave him a harder time than he should have had.” (True Genius: The Life and Science of John Bardeen, p. 300).

Kind of makes you think the process is more like high school and as much about social cliques as discovering scientific truth.

Edited by randman, : No reason given.


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Rrhain
Member
Posts: 6349
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 8 of 24 (452705)
01-31-2008 3:34 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by randman
01-31-2008 2:46 AM


Re: did you read the article?
randman quotes:

quote:
If one reads memoirs or biographies of physicists who made their great breakthroughs after, say, 1950, one is struck by how often one reads that “the referees rejected for publication the paper that later won me the Nobel Prize.”

You're missing the huge point:

They eventually showed their worth.

And they got published.

And who figured it out that the findings were worthy?

Scientists.

Creationists did not figure out that the science papers were quite astounding. It was the scientific process of publishing results and having others look over your work and integrate it into their own that managed to get it done.

Nobody has ever said that science in general or the peer review process was perfect. It is, however, a self-correcting system. If you have the data, if you have the experiment, all you have to do is replicate it over and over again. You can't deny what people can make happen right in front of their eyes.

That's why evolution has become the dominant paradigm in biology: You can see it happening right in front of your eyes.


Rrhain

Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by a jury of seventh graders so that they could look for balance and to allow them to make up their own minds. We are sorry to say that they found your paper "bogus," specifically describing the section on the laboratory work "boring." We regret that we will be unable to publish your work at this time.
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Granny Magda
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Posts: 2380
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 9 of 24 (452713)
01-31-2008 6:23 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by randman
01-31-2008 12:53 AM


What's the Alternative Then?
Just out of curiosity randman, what would you like to see in place of the current peer-review system? We can surely agree that there needs to be some process for weeding out the crackpot articles and the many flawed studies. You say that giants are being reviewed by pygmies, but it is clearly true that there are always going to be more scientists of average ability than geniuses. What's your solution?


Mutate and Survive
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PaulK
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Message 10 of 24 (452725)
01-31-2008 7:41 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by randman
01-31-2008 2:46 AM


Re: did you read the article?
Winston Churchill said "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." and it may well be that peer review is the worst system - except for the alternatives.

It does not guarantee that bad papers will not be published - or that unorthodox papers will not be published either. Many - perhaps all - of the papers you list have been published. To say that a paper was rejected only says that one journal turned it down. It does not mean that publication was blocked forever.

Even papers that are both unorthodox and bad can be published.

So the answer to the question is "neither".


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randman 
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Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 11 of 24 (452870)
01-31-2008 3:31 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by PaulK
01-31-2008 7:41 AM


Re: did you read the article?
Winston Churchill said "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." and it may well be that peer review is the worst system - except for the alternatives.

Democracy has been modified here in America to help prevent it from trampling on individual rights which have no absolute place in a pure democracy.

Likewise, Tipler does not advocate abandoning peer-review, just modifying it.


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16087
Joined: 07-20-2006
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Message 12 of 24 (452876)
01-31-2008 3:52 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by randman
01-31-2008 12:53 AM


Well, according to insane people who dribble a lot, they enforce orthodoxy.

You can see that in the hysterical pathetic antics of any Holocaust denier or creationist or flat-earther or 9/11 "Truther" ... they all froth and whine and bleat and moan about how peer-review imposes orthodoxy.

Meanwhile, in the real world, we can see how science has managed to develop and progress despite, or indeed because of, the existence of the peer-review process. And when I say "we" I mean those of us who are not paranoid lunatics.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 185 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 13 of 24 (452878)
01-31-2008 4:39 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by randman
01-31-2008 3:31 PM


conservatism
Likewise, Tipler does not advocate abandoning peer-review, just modifying it.

Each journal is free to have whatever process it likes before publishing. If a journal has low standards (which they are free to do), they may get themselves a reputation of publishing a lot of crazy or cranky ideas.

You can't force people to take these ideas seriously, and there is nothing stopping people from publishing them. You yourself have noted that many peer review papers are shown to be somewhat erroneous later.

Let us say that Science only publishes 10% of the stuff it receives, and 80% of the stuff it publishes is later shown to be someone incorrect...imagine how much more unreliable the content would be if they reduced their peer review standards?

Sure, a maverick genius might get ignored. A great idea that goes against orthodoxy might have a harder time getting attention. The upside to all this is that we can be more confident in what does get published in conservative journals. So, after struggling, if an idea does get into Science or Nature, it will be widely read and given suitable consideration.

As noted, not a perfect system, but there is none better. Since you can't force this kind of change, evidence that it is better is required. Open a science journal, have lower standards than other journals and see if a revolution happens. If that does happen, Tipler is vindicated and other journals may join in. If on the other hand, the revolution happens but lots of time and energy is wasted on exploring nonsense and cranks, other journals might not bother.


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randman 
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Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 14 of 24 (452880)
01-31-2008 5:09 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Dr Adequate
01-31-2008 3:52 PM


nice civil response
Didn't realize Tipler was insane in your eyes. Apparently Tulane and some noted scientists like Wheeler don't think so, however.
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nator
Member (Idle past 250 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 15 of 24 (452882)
01-31-2008 5:21 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by randman
01-31-2008 12:53 AM


quote:
I think Tipler is correct that the peer-review process via refereed journals is deeply flawed and serves as much to simply enforce orthodoxy as to insure quality.

If all peer review did was enforce orthodoxy, then we would not see much in the way of progress, new discoveries, novel theories, or change in science.

Since we do see progress, new discoveries, novel theories, and change on a nearly daily basis in science, the hypothesis that peer-review mainly or partly enforces orthodoxy is falsified.


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