Peer review, or it didn't happen



Isn’t this more of a Macro and less of a Meme?


Well, what if you’re peerless, though, Maggie? :slight_smile:

Peer review as a way of helping authors increase the quality of their output is a great thing, when it’s actually functioning that way instead of as a toll gate.

Peer review as a credibility filter is just argument from authority; logically and ethically bankrupt. If it ain’t in the King James it didn’t happen - you can change the shibboleth and the attitude is still just as infantile.

I love the image, but I personally would only use it satirically to mock blind worshippers of peer review. Who will be along shortly, I expect.

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Peer review and testable – preferably already tested – or it isn’t science yet. Whether or not it happened is a separate matter.

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Replication by an independent group, or there’s no corroborating evidence that it happens?


That’s probably a better slogan. :slight_smile:

Of course, like many accurate slogans, it fits poorly on a T-shirt.


Is my new t-shirt slogan.


I think my next t-shirt slogan will be ultrameta and say something like ‘humorous but apt slogan’.

Gregor Mendel happened.

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Peer review should never be considered a sufficient hurdle for acceptance of a result or an idea in science, but it should certainly be considered a necessary hurdle. If you can’t convince anyone in your field that your paper has enough merits even to be considered scientific, then you’re clearly failing at some very fundamental level to be practicing science.

So it certainly is a credibility filter, and sure, it’s an argument from authority. “Argument from authority” is one of the least-fallacious fallacies. The whole definition of an authority on a subject is someone who knows enough about it to have a basis for a judgement.

Why should I trust a peer-reviewed paper on climate science than a non-peer reviewed paper? Because the peers who are doing the reviewing know a lot more about the science behind climate science than I do.


Note that “peer reviewed” doesn’t necessarily mean “peer approved”. It means folks who have a clue have looked it over and flagged their concerns with it, so we know how large a grain/block/mine/ocean/planet of salt to take it with.

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People who describe peer review as some sort of conspiracy usually see it as some sort of meta-conspiracy that is supposedly propping up a bunch of other conspiracies, while these same skeptics treat the wildest statements of conspiracy theory websites with complete credulity.

Now if we were to talk about the difficulty of getting funding for ideas outside of a narrowly defined range of conventional thought, that’s another discussion entirely.


Fleischmann, M., S. Pons, and M. Hawkins, Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium. J. Electroanal.
Chem., 1989. 261: p. 301 …Went through peer review, not currently considered “SCIENCE” by most.

How about ‘Let us peer review you, or hand somebody else the mic’? or something like that?

It met the minimum requirements of peer review, but the issue was repeatability, and whether it really worked. Likewise, I can patent a time machine that doesn’t work, but I don’t have to prove it works to get a patent.

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These days you can just patent “concept for a device that travels through time” and not have to worry about the details.

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It did go through peer review, meaning that, if repeatable, the results were science. In that case, a whole lot of people were skeptical enough of the extraordinary claims that they decided to check the results themselves, and those results failed the test of reproducibility. As has been alluded to already, peer review is necessary for something to be considered science, but it is not necessarily sufficient. All kinds of crappy articles get through peer review, but, usually, only other specialists in the particular sub-discipline they are written in are in a position to determine this. If the article is only of interest to people in that discipline, word will get around, and it usually ends with that. If, as in the case of cold fusion, it is of interest to the general public, other scientists generally take the time to debunk it.

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Wait, you can patent the fact that it doesn’t work?

Runs off to patent our political process, abstinence education, homeopathy, and our patent system


Yeah. I mean imagine if you could just trade mark the words “Time Machine”, that would be hilarious!

What matters is if I claim that it works because that is “the scope of the patent claims.”