Saturday, January 10, 2009

Peer review an incestuous relationship

Once again one of the significant problems in science has arisen.As we have discussed here.

One of the Great controversies is how the “closed shop” of scientific review for publication and funding can lead to the passage of scientific consensus into blind cul-de-sacs of scientific theory .Indeed we can cite many Nobel laureates who when questioning the ‘Paradigm” were treated with contemptuous ridicule from the “consensus club”

Thomas Gold cited the behavior of the Nasa consensus of ‘in-house peer review”as the closed herd (neutron star rotation).

Another area where it is particularly bad is in the planetary sciences where NASA made great mistakes in the way in which they set up the situation. NASA made the grave mistake not only of working with a peer review system, but one where some of the peers (in fact very influential ones) were the in-house people doing the same line of work. This established a community of planetary scientists now which was completely selected by the leading members of the herd, which was very firmly controlled, and after quite a short time, the slightest departure from the herd was absolutely cut down. Money was not there for anybody who had a slightly diverging viewpoint. The conferences ignored him, and so on. It became completely impossible to do any independent work. For all the money that has been spent, the planetary program will one day be seen to have been extraordinarily poor. The pictures are fine and some of the facts that have been obtained from the planetary exploration with spacecraft - those will stand but not much else.

Now we see some french geophysicist caught reviewing their own colleagues papers.

Geophysicists accused of breach of publishing ethics

Scientists at the Institute of Geophysics in Paris (IPGP) have been accused of acting as editors for dozens of papers by IPGP colleagues published from 1992 to 2008 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters while they were members of the editorial board. The allegations follow a joint investigation by science journalists at the French newspapers Le Monde and Libération.

Among the authors of the articles involved is Claude Allègre, a former research and education minister in the French government and former IPGP head, whom French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been rumoured to be wooing to take up a ministerial position; and Vincent Courtillot, the institute's current head and a member of the journal's editorial board from 2003 to 2005.

Courtillot has dismissed the allegations, pointing out in Le Monde that all editors of papers submitted to the journal by the IPGP were openly identified. Allègre has described the allegations as "ridiculous". But Friso Veenstra, publisher of the Elsevier journal, maintains that reviewing papers from one's own institution runs against the journal's ethics policy.

Sort of like Chinese walls in a financial institution,and we can see where they hace all ended up.


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