Peer Review Is Bunk

Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

A report I wrote for the Global Warming Policy Foundation was released today. It explains that peer-reviewed research is as likely to be wrong as right. Basing public policy on findings that haven’t yet been reproduced is nuts.

Cartoons by Josha marvelous cartoon by Josh graces the cover of my report

It’s time to slam on the brakes, folks. In recent decades, governments have justified all manner of guidelines, taxes, laws, and public awareness campaigns by claiming that a certain course of action is indicated by ‘science.’ We’re repeatedly told that ‘peer-reviewed’ science has determined X, and that society should therefore do Y.

But here’s the dirty little secret: the peer review process tells us almost nothing. It’s merely a sniff test. A couple of people briefly examine a research paper. Using entirely subjective criteria they decide that it kind of makes sense, that it must be right because it confirms their…

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About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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2 Responses to Peer Review Is Bunk

  1. Nate says:

    Bob,

    Interesting article. Agree it has its issues. Most the problems you raised were in the social sciences or health involving human subjects.

    But peer review serves important purposes, at least in the physical sciences. It weeds out very poorly done studies and nonscience, and it does filter for novelty and importance. Though it can be subjective and fallable, on average it fulfills these roles.

    I agree that reproducibility is key, and the media doesnt get this-they tend to report any new finding and not whether it gets reproduced. This is how the anti-vax movement started..

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Nate, while I would love to take credit for this post, it was written by Donna Laframboise. I simply reposted it. Sorry I didn’t note that.

    Cheers.

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