Friday, September 25, 2009

Corruption of the scientific process

This is an amusing and disturbing description of a scientist trying to get a journal to publish his reply to a paper erroneously refuting his life's work.

The author refrains from mentioning his field, but it isn't the first time a story like this has come to my attention (see, e.g., Steve McIntyre's various experiences in the world of climate research at

Here's another amusing/disturbing story from the top ranks of the climate world.

Astounding. Compared with the commonly held myth that "peer reviewed" means "case proven", this sort of thing can only be doing real damage to both the scientific process and the wider public perception of science.

Addendum: I should qualify that last remark that by explaining that I am, and have been, a reviewer for several top tier computer science conferences for about a decade. My job as a reviewer is to decide (a) whether a paper is original, (b) whether it defends its thesis, (c) whether it has provided satisfactory answers to the reader's questions, (d) whether it is readable, and (e) whether it explains the research well enough for the work to be reproduced with reasonable effort by any other member of the community. If a paper fails this last hurdle then it is essentially a set of claims lacking adequate support. Now, even if I recommend a paper for publication, that does not mean I accept its conclusions as truth. Rather, I am suggesting that the work is of sufficient value that it may be worth replication. Replication, not publication, is the gold standard of science.

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