Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peer review does not guarantee the accuracy of global warming science

Science writer Tim Dean, writing at The Drum, justifies his belief in anthropogenic global warming:
Scientists might hold their own political views, but the very nature of peer review and the scientific method rids the results of most value-laden bias, leaving the most reliable and impartial account of the world humanity can muster.
A contrary view of peer review from Richard Horton, editor of prestigious British medical journal The Lancet:
Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.
And here's Horton some 10 years later, after The Lancet published and later withdrew Andrew Wakefield's notorious peer reviewed study linking the MMR vaccine to autism:

The Lancet had done what it could to establish that the research was valid, by having it peer-reviewed. But there is a limit, he said, to what peer-review can ascertain.

Peer review is the best system we have got for checking accuracy and acceptability of work, but unless we went into the lab or examined every case record, we can't ever finally rule out some element of misconduct. The entire system depends upon trust. Most of the time we think it works well, but there will be a few instances – and when they happen they are huge instances – where the whole thing falls apart.

Tim Dean is wrong to assert that peer review does anything to guarantee accuracy.


Anonymous Mike said...

Science writer Tim Dean...

Science writer Tim Dean, aka @ockhamsbeard, who self-describes as "Science journalist, editor of Australian Life Scientist, gaming blogger, philosophy PhD student, curry fanatic"?

Who more qualified to speak on the scientific method than a philosophy PhD student and gaming blogger ? WHO, I ask you!

PS From his blog, he looks like he'd be the perfect partner for Alene Composta! :D

5:30 PM  

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