The Peer Review Scandal in Science

By | February 7, 2017

Peer review was supposed to be a method whereby a scientist who published articles had their scientific work scrutinized by a body of “peers”. The peer system is broken. There have been a huge number of self-serving periodicals, journals and on line journals that are “peer reviewed” by like-minded friends of the author. So much for peer review. Most of these journals were specifically created to promote a particular viewpoint and anyone deviating from that viewpoint simply won’t make it past the “peer-review” process because the Journal selects the peers and they are not going to accept any findings contrary to their own pet publications.
Those more catholic journals that dare to publish a non-alarmist global warming article are certain to face an orchestrated call for the head of the editor. Obviously, if science is to promote the free discussion of science, how can it do so when radicals from the righteous global warming alarmist group are trying to suppress debate of the issues?
Today there are hundreds of periodicals and journals on the subject of climate alone. 50 years ago to be called a climatologist was almost an insult. That job usually fell to the lowest or newest academic on the team, faculty staff, or project. You dealt with compiling boring data from years gone past and winced at being called a “Climatologist”. Today everyone wants to be a climatologist and the field has grown no complex that you have myriads of subordinate classes. So you have those who specialize in tree rings, ice cores, glaciation, ocean temperatures, satellite temperatures, land temperatures, and even such a division has divisions of expertise. The oceanographer may specialize in currents, deep ocean currents, La Nina and El Nino currents, arctic oceanographer, or, perhaps so specialized as to only study corals or salinity.
This results in the blind men and the elephant problem. No one has a real handle on the overall science. The days of the polymath, a person who basically knew all knowledge on a subject, are gone. Therefore, we often have a lot of papers written by scientists who expound upon their narrow subject without sufficient skill to vet that work and only being reviewed by similarly narrowly focused peers. In the absence of someone with statistical knowledge, the scientist may be unawares that they are making conclusions based upon insufficient information or that the data collected may well be little more than random noise.
From the beginning, Dr. James Hansen held political sway over Al Gore, a man who has no real science background. And thus almost immediately after the global warming proposition came into being, aka the “science” of climate, the whole issue was compromised by politics. And the spokespersons for global warming are rarely scientists themselves, and the few who are often are from relatively unrelated fields. Bill Nye for instance is a mechanical engineer, not a scientist at all, whether called the “Science Guy” or not.
Publish or perish has been replaced by get grants or get out. Science is now driven by grant money and in that lies a huge problem with creating science tailored to the person who funds that so-called science. It is a sorry mess that won’t be fixed soon.
Simple fact. The internet and word processor has only put scientific thought on steroids. There are too many articles, often so narrow that only a handful of other experts can glean much from them. No one is going to read it all. And so we are selective about what we read. And confirmation bias suggests most of us read articles we find support our own thoughts. So the two sides of global warming are talking past each other, and cannot figure out why the other side cannot see it “our way”. It is human nature.
And the specialization of science means each specialty will also metastasize rapidly and in doing so become almost divorced from other science specialties. Without a group of diverse scientists, few fields will escape Balkanization. The first issue for the scientist is to recognize this diversity cannot stay compartmentalized and must become a team to integrate the science to obtain the larger picture.