måndag 30 november 2009

The End of Anonymous Peer Review in Science

Wall Street Journal expresses its Opinion on Climategate in The Web Discloses Inconvenient Climate Truths: The world cannot trust scientists who abuse their power:
  • The emails showed how the global-warming group stifled dissent. They controlled the peer-review process, keeping opposing views unpublished, then cited "peer review" as evidence of their "consensus." 
  • ...scientists who suppressed others "must have felt that this secrecy was their best weapon: to censor differing opinions, to develop 'trick' procedures, to 'balance' the needs of the IPCC, and even to 'redefine' peer review."
  • Why are scholars who review papers allowed to remain anonymous? 
  • Reforming scientists and lawmakers might put the question more concretely: How many of the anonymous reviewers who spiked skeptical scientific papers over the years are the people who wrote these emails detailing how they abused peer review to block contrary evidence?
  • Science was one of the first disciplines to insist on transparency in order to foster competition in data and ideas. In the case of global warming, transparency is better late than never, as policy makers now have the chance to review the facts. 
  • Facing up to high-profile flaws is hard for any profession, but honest scientists will cheer how in our digital era eventually the truth will out, and will accept that no scientific hypothesis can be viewed as sacred or can be proved in secret.
Yes, Climategate has put the finger on the weak spot of science: anonymous peer-review.

Science requires open debate between living scientists with faces and names in order to guarantee that arguments and facts can properly be scrutinized, compared and evaluated.  If in a scientific debate or controversy, one side is allowed to be anonymous and hide the cards, a call cannot be made and the game is unfair. And the result of an unfair game of science can be unfair incorrect science. Just as if you were allowed to cheat in sports. It seems clear that the peer-review process has to be redefined. 

3 kommentarer:

  1. I agree! At least about the problem of anonymous peer review. (I don't know anything about the climate stuff.)

  2. Are you sure you don't know anything about climate?

  3. Well, I wouldn't mind it being a bit warmer and a little less rain.