Navigate / search

Peer Review

Scientific journals use a process of peer review, in which scientists’ manuscripts are submitted by editors of scientific journals to (usually one to three) fellow (usually anonymous) scientists familiar with the field for evaluation. The referees may or may not recommend publication, publication with suggested modifications, or, sometimes, publication in another journal.

This is an attempt to keep the scientific literature free of unscientific or crackpot work, it helps to cut down on obvious errors, and it generally improves the quality of the scientific literature. Work announced in the popular press before going through this process is generally frowned upon.

Peer review

Sometimes peer review inhibits the circulation of unorthodox work, and at other times may be too permissive. Criticisms of these restraints are that they are so nebulous in definition (e.g. “good scientific practice”) and open to ideological, or even political, manipulation. Apart from promoting a rigorous practice of a scientific method, they have been cited often to serve to censor rather than promote scientific discovery.

Apparent censorship through refusal to publish ideas unpopular with mainstream scientists (unpopular because of ideological reasons and/or because they seem to contradict long held scientific theories) has tinted the popular perception of scientists as being neutral or seekers of truth and often denigrated popular perception of science as a whole.

Scientists must choose which problems to work on, and they must decide how much time to devote to different problems. They are often influenced by cultural, social, political and economic factors. Scientists live and work within a culture which often shapes their approach to problems; they work within theories that often shape their current understanding of nature; they work within a society that often decides what scientific topics will be intellectually and financially supported and which will not; and they also work within a political system that often determines which topics are permitted and financially rewarded and which are not.

Both of these constraints indirectly bring in a scientific method — work that too obviously violates the constraints will be difficult to publish and difficult to get funded. Journals do not require submitted papers to conform to anything more specific than “good scientific practice” and this is mostly enforced by peer review.

The peer review process is not always successful, but has been very widely adopted by the scientific community. The primary constraints on contemporary western science are publication (i.e. peer review) and resources (mostly funding). As a result, experimenters are expected to maintain detailed records of their experimental procedures, in order to provide evidence of the effectiveness and integrity of the procedure and assist in reproduction. These procedural records may also assist in the conception of new experiments to test the hypothesis, and may prove useful to engineers who might examine the potential practical applications of a discovery.

Each element of scientific method is subject to peer review for possible mistakes. Sometimes experimenters may make systematic errors during their experiments, or (in rare cases) deliberately falsify their results. Consequently, it is a common practice for other scientists to attempt to repeat the experiments in order to duplicate the results, thus further validating the hypothesis or further reinforcing its querying.

In the absence of any formal peer review process regarding the ideas expressed in this site, one can primarily only offer up the work to the quoted authors who have produced the individual works called upon to underpin each thesis to form an opinion.

Scientists

Scientists sometimes lie, just as all humans are susceptible to this behaviour. Scientific fraud is relatively rare, because if you are found to have committed fraud as a scientist your career is generally weakened, if not completely ended. Sooner or later, someone somewhere will try to repeat your work and find out they cannot. Such cross checking is a great deterrent to those ill thought out individuals.

They might be in a good position to comment on the context in which their work has been used and to scrutinize the way in which the work has been conveyed. Secondarily, readers and thinkers who choose to engage the work herein as an intellectual exercise would be encouraged to contrast as many educated perspectives as possible simply to enliven debates that might be born of this simple offering.

These are some of the reasons for all the checking and rechecking which goes on in science, and why the scientific method is so powerful. It is built to handle error and deceit and to be, sometimes very slowly, self correcting. Due to this, the scientific method is the best way we know of to get near the ‘truth’ about the world around us. Peer review is a critical aspect of scientific method.

Recognizing the fact that personal and cultural beliefs influence both our perceptions and our interpretations of natural phenomena, we aim through the use of standard procedures and criteria to minimize those influences when developing a theory. It has been said that “Smart people can come up with very good explanations for mistaken points of view.”

Nigh the less, a formal process of peer review is essential for any work to be accepted as anything more than an exercise in thought. The hypotheses’ contained have not been offered up to any formal review and are therefore recognizable as uncorroborated ideas and no more.

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website