When You Hear a Scientist Talk About ‘Peer Review’ You Should Reach For Your Browning

Donna Laframboise has a great piece in the Spectator – How Many Scientific Papers Just Aren’t True? – about why so much science research these days is bunk because the whole “peer-review” process is broken. She means climate science especially, of course.

Someone should tell the guys at green propaganda site CarbonBrief.

Thousands of peer-reviewed academic papers are published about climate change every year. These articles form the bedrock of climate science, underpinning the assessment reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

And also, enviro-activist Ed Begley Jr who went postal on TV in this mega-rant about the vital importance of “peer-review”

And this smug, simpering tosser, John Oliver.

And so on.

Everyone on the Alarmist side of the argument is forever invoking “consensus” and “peer-review” because the Appeal to Authority is all they’ve got. Their science is tainted beyond redemption and the only hope they’ve got of persuading the world that it’s not is to hide the facts behind barriers of supposed expertise: “You little people cannot possibly be expected to understand these complex matters. Instead you must take on trust the expertise of the climate scientists who have written all these learned papers. And the reason you can take on trust the expertise of their learned papers is that they have been carefully assessed by other climate experts in the process we call ‘peer-review'”.

Except, of course, as Donna Laframboise points out, these papers often haven’t been vetted at all.

We have known for some time about the random and arbitrary nature of peer reviewing. In 1982, 12 already published papers were assigned fictitious author and institution names before being resubmitted to the same journal 18 to 32 months later. The duplication was noticed in three instances, but the remaining nine papers underwent review by two referees each. Only one paper was deemed worthy of seeing the light of day the second time it was examined by the same journal that had already published it. Lack of originality wasn’t among the concerns raised by the second wave of referees.

A significant part of the problem is that anyone can start a scholarly journal and define peer review however they wish. No minimum standards apply and no enforcement mechanisms ensure that a journal’s publicly described policies are followed. Some editors admit to writing up fake reviews under cover of anonymity rather than going to the trouble of recruiting bona fide referees. Two years ago it emerged that 120 papers containing computer-generated gibberish had survived the peer review process of reputable publishers.

There are serious knock-on effects. Politicians and journalists have long found it convenient to regard peer-reviewed research as de facto sound science. Saying ‘Look at the studies!’ is a convenient way of avoiding argument. But Nature magazine has disclosed how, over a period of 18 months, a team of researchers attempted to correct dozens of substantial errors in nutrition and obesity research. Among these was the claim that the height change in a group of adults averaged nearly three inches (7 cm) over eight weeks.

The team reported that editors ‘seemed unprepared or ill-equipped to investigate, take action, or even respond’. In Kafkaesque fashion, after months of effort culminated in acknowledgement of a gaffe, journals then demanded that the team pay thousands of dollars before a letter calling attention to other people’s mistakes could be published.

Bear this in mind next time you find yourself in an argument about climate change with an Alarmist. Almost certainly, they will attempt to pour scorn on your relative lack of scientific expertise. To which you can safely and confidently reply that the authorities they are invoking as their arbiter of higher truth are very likely a bunch of charlatans and chancers.

Also be sure to point out – as I do in my book Watermelons – that neither Watson and Crick nor Einstein were peer-reviewed.

Then finally, if they still won’t shut up, sock them with this: The Climate Truth File from CFACT, in which you’ll find every cod-scientific fallacy about climate change debunked.


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