Peer review

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Peer review in general refers to submitting scientific work to the scrutiny of other scientists (called "reviewers," or "referees"), especially before publishing it in a scientific journal or making announcements to the general public. It has been found to be rooted in the Biblical tradition and is a proper Christian conduct.[1]

Peer review of scientific papers submitted to scientific journals is a largely secretive process whereby anonymous referees review the paper in strict confidence before an editor accepts the paper for publication. Because the referees usually have some expertise regarding the article's subject, this process is expected usually catch subtle errors in scientific work. In common practice, peer review is synonymous with anonymous peer review, where the journal editor removes the names of reviewers from their comments before passing them to the authors. After receiving comments, the author may respond, change the article to clarify things, or retract the article. When enough referees approve the publication the paper is published.

The referees are usually selected from a pool of people who already published in that journal, and may be recommended by the authors. However, if the authors find out that the recommended referee was actually selected, this situation (among others) may become an easy way to abuse the process. The scientific journals may ask the referees to check numerous criteria, such as whether the referee believes that the topic of the article fits into the journal. If that would not be the case, the referee will usually suggest another journal to publish the article in. The next important thing is that the article should be coherent. This means it should not contradict itself, and if parts (e.g. measurement results) are ambiguous, this should be pointed out. The next criteria is obviously that the article should present sufficiently new material, and that the new material should be clearly distinguished from material cited. The next step is originality of the article. Even if new data are consistently presented, they may not fit into a given Journal. Last but not least, the style guidelines of the Journal should be followed quite exactly, and also a minimum standard in the language used must be adhered to. Peer review is not very efficient against scientific misbehavior or plagiarism.

A controversial form of peer review is when physicians on the staff of a hospital pass judgment on a fellow physician, and recommend that he be excluded from the medical staff. This has potential for abuse to eliminate competitors, which is known as sham peer review.

Academic publishing and commercial publishing

"University presses and other academic publishers routinely put scholarly works through a rigorous peer review. But that is not necessarily true of commercial publishers."[2] (See the Michael Bellesiles incident.)

Theology of Peer Review

In a landmark paper, the process of peer review has been established by many scholars [3] as rooted in several Christian virtues, such as:

  • reflecting Christ
  • being honest
  • seeking wisdom
  • humbly submitting
  • showing Christian love
  • correcting error, and
  • being accountable

In accordance to this, several peer reviewed creationist journals such as Answers Research Journal, Creation Research Society Quarterly, Journal of Creation, Occasional Papers of the BSG, Proceedings of the National Creationist Institute, and Origins have been created despite the scorn and ridicule from liberal professors.

Abuses by the IPCC

"...the climate reconstruction of Mann passed both peer review rounds of the IPCC without anyone ever really having checked it." [1]
Hendrik Tennekes wrote: 'The IPCC review process is fatally flawed....' [2]
There can be no peer review at all when authors refuse to release their data and computer codes for public inspection and attempted reconstruction of reported results by other scientists. [3]

Limitations of peer review

Richard Lindzen wrote:

The combination of increased scale and diminished emphasis on unique talent is, from a certain point of view, a devastating combination which greatly increases the potential for the political direction of science, and the creation of dependent constituencies. With these new constituencies, such obvious controls as peer review and detailed accountability begin to fail and even serve to perpetuate the defects of the system. Miller (2007) specifically addresses how the system especially favors dogmatism and conformity.[4]

Peer review and due diligence

Steve McIntyre wrote:

IPCC proponents place great emphasis on the merit of articles that have been 'peer reviewed' by a journal. However, as a form of due diligence, journal peer review in the multiproxy climate field is remarkably cursory, as compared with the due diligence of business processes. Peer review for climate publications, even by eminent journals like Nature or Science, is typically a quick unpaid read by two (or sometimes three) knowledgeable persons, usually close colleagues of the author.
It is unheard of for a peer reviewer to actually check the data and calculations. In 2004, I was asked by a journal (Climatic Change) to peer review an article. I asked to see the source code and supporting calculations. The editor said that no one had ever asked for such things in 28 years of his editing the journal. [4]

Time taken for Peer Review

The time taken for the peer review varies with the subject and the paper, but it not usually very long and some magazines aim for an average of 28 days from submission to decision. [5] The actual time taken by the reviewer is much shorter and varies from five hours [6] to one and a half hours. [7]. Obviously more important papers will tend to be reviewed first.

See also

Richard Lenski

External links


  1. Theology of Peer Review, Answer: Research Journal
  2. Disarming History
  3. Theology of Peer Review, Answer: Research Journal
  4. Climate Science: Is It Designed To Answer Questions?
  5. 28 days from submission to decision.
  6. Five hour Peer Review
  7. One-and-a-half hour Peer Review