Judge an author by his pals

This Copernicus journal thing is a mess. I think I’m most angry that the fiasco was probably preventable.  I don’t have an opinion on the science other than ‘interesting’, as further than that I don’t feel qualified to comment, but the whole process and affair has been damaging to the extreme.

It brings up the whole pal-review/peer-review debate again.  Jo Nova has a long post: Science is not done by peer or pal review, but by evidence and reason in which I heartily agree with the following statement:

When good scientists pal review good science, we can get better science. When poor scientists pal review poor science, we get a cheating loophole, though good editors ought to know that, and rebuttals can clean up mistakes. Pal review merely explains why some truly junky papers get put into supposedly eminent journals. My real problem is with scientists who make out that Peer Review is gospel while practicing bad pal-review. There is active deception in that contrast.

For what it’s worth I have good acquaintance who is editor of a small but respected science journal – in a very traditional applied science (nothing to do with climate).  I asked him a while back about pal review. He is a sceptic but simply a scientist who was never wholly convinced by the science – even related to his field. He doesn’t follow the debate and is not an avid blog reader, so some of the finer points of climate pal-review were unknown to him. He was shocked.

His answer was that it happens a lot, yes – but when any good scientists review good science, we get better science. He said the issue should be with the integrity of the scientists – both the author and the reviewer.  He said he sent papers to pals routinely, both as an author and an editor, but in his experience he trusted (in fact expected) his pals to tell him if his paper was rubbish, or if he had made an embarrassing error. For a good paper they (any reviewer) would improve it by constructive criticism, but if it was flawed or weak they wouldn’t hesitate if they needed to recommend rejection.  I guess that’s the answer I expected in a non-controversial field where there is no commercial interest.  It is also the answer I expected from a man of very high integrity both personally and as a scientist.

He made a good point that the pressure to publish as a means to justify grant money (and obtain more) had corrupted the system; it is no longer about having something worthy to say. That’s sad, but true. We need a different system.

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13 Responses to Judge an author by his pals

  1. PeterMG says:

    Verity. The most puzzling behaviour has come from Anthony Watts and some of the WUWT crowd. I have been following the patterns in physics science without having read enough yet to grasp fully what it all means. Watts dismisses it all as junk and garbage.

    On the one hand we have CAGW crowd ganging up on Copernicus doing their usual bully boy tactics to stop any dissenting science being published, and then we get what most think of as a leading sceptical site leading the condemnation of the scientists involved in the peer reviewing of these papers. WUWT have done science a great disservice and have turned mainstream apologist.

    But there is more to all of this than meets the eye. I wrote last year that the anti AGW cause faced a junction and especially the bigger web sites such as WUWT and Bishop Hill. With the realisation that AGW is a political construct the debate had to move into the political arena. If the website didn’t want to do this and wanted to stick to the science then they needed to ensure they didn’t move into areas where there competence could be called into question. Bishop Hill has drifted into the political argument but WUWT has stuck to science, they think, but in reality have turned into science chat room where any posts or science that step outside Anthony Watts luke warm view that CO2 is a greenhouse gas gets the bums rush.

    I think we have all come to the realisation that our understanding of climate change is nil and that we have to now start listening to all of the other ideas that are out there because one of them may hold the key. Certainly you are onto a hiding to nothing carrying on with back radiation drivel.

    For me the last 6 months or so has been a period where I have had to come to terms with throwing out all I thought I knew and start embracing some new ideas. Things such as the expanding earth, no such thing as gravity, the electric universe and many other ideas are now offering better explanations for the things we observe in the universe that mainstream science struggles to explain, and when faced with maths that won’t add up we see mainstream science inventing things to plug the gap; Dark matter and Dark energy being the most prominent, rather than think our understanding of gravity is flawed. Much of what I thought was science I have now realised is just made up. Some of my posts on your blog I would now consider to be wrong and have no chance of being anywhere near the truth. But I guess this is the way of science and unless we are prepared to listen to all the ideas we will not move forward in our understanding.

    I believe we have reached the nadir of the age of stupid, and the first signs that we are moving into the age of enlightenment, (or second age of reason that spurred the industrial revolution) are just beginning. The old order is crumbling and spats such as that we have just witnessed will become regular events as we search for the truth.

    • Verity Jones says:

      I don’t know Anthony’s reasoning, but I suspect he had such nonsense and food fights over barycentre stuff in when comments were moderated (remembering that only approved comments show to the world) that he has not followed the field as it has developed.

      Very good comment Peter. I agree with most of what you say.

      As for writing this post – in a rush as usual I didn’t really get across what I wanted to say but it’s gone now (what I wanted to write).

  2. Sipping coffee with Nicola Scafetta the week before Christmas there was no mention of PRP. The publication of his papers in an obscure journal was of no importance to me then or now. Long ago I realized that the correlations he has documented are impressive. We were discussing physics that could provide a mechanism to explain the correlations. Sadly, there is nothing to report in this conext.

    In my view, PeterMG nailed it. While the Copernicus flap is a tempest in a teapot it does remind us of the failings of the peer review process of the string of papers produced by Mann, Briffa and Hughes (MBH 98 etc.). Thanks to Steve McIntyre we now know that the Tiljander sediments were inverted, the statistical methods were flawed and the “Hockey Stick” relied on a single tree in the Yamal peninsula.

    So where are the retractions or corrections? Why is Nature still in business given its association with the travesties and junk science of the Hockey Team?

    • tallbloke says:

      Hi GC and everyone. Possible mechanism found in my papers. Resonance transfers energy through the IMF as well as via gravity. Much analysis to do but obs laid out are unequivocal.

      • Verity Jones says:

        Hi Rog,
        Interesting science, terrible hullaballoo.
        Careful about using phrases such as “Possible mechanism found in my papers” 😉 It makes you sound like a certain person arguing about back radiaion who made a real nuisance of himself. (Not that you would, just the phrase made me think of that I and couldn’t help teasing).

  3. Stephen Fox says:

    Good summary PeterMG.
    I’ve found WUWT less interesting lately (at least 2 yrs), and fully agree with your assessment.
    I commented there during the recent fracas, critical of the WUWT position on PRP. One of the main perpetrators (I won’t name him or he’ll be trolling here next) came directly back, saying he’d done a search of the Talkshop, and could confirm I had commented there more than once.
    ‘Are you now or have you ever been a commenter on Talkshop?’
    Extraordinary behaviour.
    Concerning areas of science that are dubious, I completely agree about ‘dark matter’. I thoroughly recommend this:

    ‘The Big Bang Never Happened’, investigating problems with Red Shift, and goes on to explore wider issues of consensus thinking in science. Features Fred Hoyle and many others.
    I heard of a terribly revealing project the other day. A hypothesis was circulated round two groups of physicists for review, the only difference being that one group received a version which contained some equations, which were actually complete garbage. Sadly, the garbage equations attracted a considerably higher level of approval than was given the the garbage-free version. A very naughty trick, but funny all the same.
    For mathematicians behaving in a silly way, see the Two Envelope Paradox. Ordinary people know immediately the answer that many mathematicians have failed to arrive at, hence it being called a paradox. It’s absurd, and should alert us to the certainty that highly qualified and apparently intelligent people make silly mistakes, and tell porkies to cover up mistakes just like others, and maybe even more so. Even worse, they often deliberately tell lies with the aim of making mysterious and inaccessible their subject to the rest of us. It’s a shame, and nothing like what I thought science was about.

    • PeterMG says:

      Thanks for the link Stephen I enjoyed that. Science needs desperately to move out of the world of mathematics and back into the world of what we can observer and measure. The we may move forward again.

  4. Stephen Fox says:

    Sorry, absentmindedly put up pt 4. Start with Pt 1 obviously 🙂

  5. Pingback: We have reached the Nadir of the Age of Stupid | CraigM350

  6. Verity Jones says:

    @Stephen Fox
    For dubious areas of science, try “molecular ordering in water”. The video embedded here is well worth the hour it takes to watch it: https://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/shedding-new-light-on-clouds/

    • Stephen Fox says:

      Thanks Verity, I’ll take a look.

    • Stephen Fox says:

      Well, we had a wet and windy day here (again!), so I watched the talk on exclusion zone water. As you say, a little sceptical at first, but what a fascinating set of results. And inspirational of kitchen chemistry, as you said in the comments. Perhaps you could alternate hydrophilic and hydrophobic plates to make a water battery. And it would have to be translucent – glass or perspex.
      Also, a couple of fiascos in the field in quick succession were enough to bury the subject. Good for Professor Pollack in any case, andthank you for the link!

      • Verity Jones says:

        Glad you liked it. Its is something I sort of feel privileged to know about, if you know what I mean. It makes me think an awful lot of people are missing something.

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