JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Political bias in peer reviewed science

An excellent article in The New Yorker: Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans?

It’s an article about the failings of peer review and research design in psychology due to the dominance of one particular political ideology (rather than having a spread more representative of the total population). You won’t be shocked to find there is a dominance of liberal left-leaning views in the profession. The paper it discusses is by Jonathan Haidt and co-authored by our friend Jose Duarte — the psychology PhD candidate and blogger who entertainingly and comprehensively dissected Lewandowsky on his blog: Do we hate our participants?

It will be no surprise that controversial psychology papers (which disagree with the reviewer’s world view)  are usually treated harshly — no matter if the data is as strong. So, thinking of another field we know, what does it mean for research design and peer review when 97% of certified climate scientists hold one world view? (They not only agree on the scientific hypothesis but on the political action as well — and they boast about that?)  What chance does a “controversial” paper have? Has anyone done a study on the political diversity of official climate scientists? There are plenty [...]

Failure of Peer Review, meaningless statistical significance, needs fixing says Doctor & journal

Most of the results reported in peer reviewed literature in medicine are mere artefacts of poor methodology, despite being done to more exacting standards than climate studies. There are calls in the medical literature for all data to be made public and for higher P values to be required. (Yes please say skeptics everywhere). Miller and Young recommend that observational studies don’t be taken at all seriously until they are replicated at least once. That would have ruled out the original HockeyStick two times over.

Even the absolute best medical papers are wrong 20% of the time, but mere observational studies (like climate research) failed 80 – 100% of the time. These studies of papers demonstrate why anyone who waves the “Peer Review” red flag is in denial of the evidence — “Peer Review” is not part of the scientific method. It’s a form of argument from authority. A fallacy of reasoning is still a fallacy, no matter how many times it is repeated. Those who claim it is essential or rigorous are not scientists, no matter what their government-given title says.

 GEN, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, May 1, 2014, Point of View

Are Medical Articles True on Health, [...]

Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick, were not peer reviewed

Sir Isaac Newton

Peer review by anonymous unpaid reviewers is not a part of the Scientific Method.

Once upon a time the fate of a scientific paper was dependent on an Editor whose reputation depended on making sound decisions about what to publish. Modern science shifted responsibility from a single identifiable editor to an anonymous “committee”. What could possibly go wrong?

From Zocalo Public Square

Melinda Baldwin looked at the history of peer review:

I was incredibly surprised to learn that Nature published some papers without peer review up until 1973. In fact, many of the most influential texts in the history of science were never put through the peer review process, including Isaac Newton’s 1687 Principia Mathematica, Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper on relativity, and James Watson and Francis Crick’s 1953 Nature paper on the structure of DNA.

A revolution in science happened without formal “peer review”. Who would have thought?

Crucially, journals without refereeing processes were not seen as inferior or less “scientific” than those that used referees. Few scientists thought that two anonymous readers would better judge a paper than, say, the great physicist Max Planck (who was on the editorial board of the prominent German journal [...]

Busted: 120 gibberish science papers withdrawn — so much for “peer review”

At least 120 computer generated nonsense papers have been reviewed and published in publications of the  Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and Springer, as well as conference proceedings. The fakes have just been discovered by a French researcher and are being withdrawn.

Cyril Labbé found a way to spot artificially-generated science papers, and published it his website and lo, the fakes turned up en masse. In the past, pretend papers have turned up in open access journals–this time the fake papers appeared in subscription based journals. But the man who caught the fakes says he cannot be sure he’s caught them all, because he couldn’t check all the papers behind paywalls.

According to Nature:

The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.

Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and [...]

Pattern Recognition Journal to be relaunched

Over a week ago Christopher Monckton sent this letter below to the Editor of Copernicus Publications, suggesting they reconsider their hasty decision to close the journal, and informed Martin Rassmussen that unless he heard from him about that or about copyright issues within 7 days, Monckton would take over the title Pattern Recognition in Physics and relaunch the journal. There was no response from Copernicus, so Monckton is now free to pursue this. I think it is a good development, and hope it will lead to a dispassionate discussion of the scientific ideas that were raised.

The scandal remains that Copernicus did not close the journal because of any scientific flaws. They first and foremost closed the journal because it “doubted” the IPCC, as they baldly declared in their original emails and official statement. That Copernicus then post hoc claimed there was a fault with the reviewing process doesn’t change the fact that a major scientific publishing house took the extraordinary decision that the IPCC can not be questioned and naively admitted it, as if it was acceptable. It reveals the utterly unscientific mindset of the gatekeepers of Peer Review.

My position is that Peer Review is a bureaucratic process [...]

Science is not done by peer or pal review, but by evidence and reason

The termination of the Pattern Recognition journal ought to be PR gold for skeptics. Nothing like this happens to unskeptical scientists, ever. It’s a telling spectacle.

A major science publisher gasped in horror that one amongst its scores of journals had “doubted the IPCC”, so the journal had to be axed forever. Oh the Crime! The over-the-top dummy-spit exposes the religious zeal in a supposedly scientific process. So much for the hallowed “Peer Review”. Fans of establishment science want us to believe it’s a gospel part of the scientific method, but it is neither intrinsic nor essential, and skeptics should not be fooled into thinking it is.

Peer reviewed papers may be gems or  junk but we won’t know which by discussing who reviewed them.

Let’s follow due process in science, but that is not by review whether peer-or-pal, it’s by prediction, test, observation, and repeat.

Some people seem to have lost sight of this, and think that skeptics ought to be trying to play the Peer Review Game according to the fine print of arbitrary rules dictated by unscientists who hate skeptics and who don’t even play by the rules themselves.  The game belongs to them –  they set, [...]

Science paper doubts IPCC, so whole journal gets terminated!

In extraordinary news, the scientific journal Pattern Recognition in Physics has been unexpectedly terminated, a “drastic decision” taken just ten months after it started.

The publisher appears to be shocked that in a recent special issue the scientists expressed doubt about the accelerated warming predicted by the IPCC. For the crime of not bowing before the sacred tabernacle, apparently the publishers suddenly felt the need to distance themselves, and in the most over-the-top way. The reasons they gave had nothing to do with the data, the logic, and they cite no errors. There can be no mistake, this is about enforcing a permitted line of thought.

I must say, it’s a brilliant (if a tad expensive) way to draw attention to a scientific paper. It’s the Barbara-Streisland moment in science. Forget “withdrawn”, forget “retracted”, the new line in the sand is to write a paper so hot they have to terminate the whole journal! Skeptics could hardly come up with a more electric publicity campaign.

Naturally, as with all good Barbara-Streisland-moves intended to suppress information, as soon as I heard, the first thing I did was to seek out and download copies of all the papers. Right now, people [...]

Nobel Winner boycotts journals Nature, Science, and Cell for damage to science

The pursuit of knowledge does not fit well into human institutions, the 9 – 5 regime, career plans, nor the profit motive. Cracks are everywhere. The message grows that science is being exploited and distorted.

Randy Schekman received his Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine yesterday. At the same time he has declared that his lab will not be sending papers to the top-tier journals Nature, Science and Cell because they are damaging science. He calls for more open access papers saying “science must break the tyranny of the luxury journals”

Randy Schekman in the Guardian

“I am a scientist. Mine is a professional world that achieves great things for humanity. But it is disfigured by inappropriate incentives. The prevailing structures of personal reputation and career advancement mean the biggest rewards often follow the flashiest work, not the best. Those of us who follow these incentives are being entirely rational – I have followed them myself – but we do not always best serve our profession’s interests, let alone those of humanity and society.

Chiefly, he points out that the “luxury” journals manage themselves as brand-names, and choose papers for reasons other than their scientific advances. The journals seek [...]

Peer Review failure: Science and Nature journals reject papers because they “have to be wrong”

The peer review system has decayed to the point where the culture of the two “top” science journals virtually  guarantees they will reject the most important research done today. It is the exact opposite of what we need to further human knowledge the fastest. Science and Nature are prestigious journals, yet they are now so conservative about ideas that challenge dominant assumptions, that they reject ground-breaking papers because those papers challenge the dominant meme, not because the evidence or the reasoning is suspect or weak.

Watts Up drew my attention to an extraordinary paper showing that billions of dollars of medical research may have been wasted because researchers assumed mice were the same as men. Dr Ronald W. Davis from Stanford comments: ““They are so ingrained in trying to cure mice that they forget we are trying to cure humans.” He found that 150 drugs were tested that in hindsight, were guaranteed to fail in humans. People didn’t understand that mice have a very different response to sepsis (which is any overwhelming blood-borne bacterial infection). Sepsis kills around 200,000 people in the US each year and costs an estimated $17 billion a year. Mice are already resistant to huge numbers [...]

When top scientists take 2 years to publish, it’s time to give up on old “Peer” review

Ladies and Gentlemen this is the front line trench of modern science. If climate science is so important, and there is no time to waste, why does the system try so hard to discourage dissent (because they don’t want to find the truth, only the “correct” answer)?

This paper by Lindzen and Choi was submitted and rejected by GRL in 2009, then rejected twice more by PNAS. (And in part because it needed to meet impossible standards. In the end, it was supposed to include “the kitchen sink” but fit into a sandwich bag — see below). The paper could have been out for discussion in 2009, and while it has improved upon revision, was it worth the two year wait? Those gains could have been made in two months (or two weeks) online.

Even the reviewers understand how significant these results would be if they are right. One admits the new paper shows the models don’t match the observations.

Science needs free and open criticism, and competing theories. If Lindzen’s analysis is revolutionary, but potential wrong, is it so bad to publish those results? He is one of the most eminent researchers in the [...]