Thursday, August 19, 2010

Organized Science and Its Dirty Little Secret

If there is a recognized deity in the world of organized science, one of its names is “Peer Review”. Before results of any serious scientific investigation are published in a reputable journal, an associate editor farms out the submitted paper to “peers” of the hopeful author(s) (in a few cases the editor may reject a submission without review). Much of the time this process works fairly well; the reviewers provide an evaluation of the would-be contribution: its novelty (has somebody else has produced the same result?), evidence (and further testability), coherence (do the data support the interpretation), and citation of appropriate sources, and makes a recommendation: accept as is (rare), accept with modifications (more common), or go back to the salt mines and here’s why (most common). The editor may solicit numerous reviewers and from the typically one or two returned reviews makes his or her decision on the submission.