How to make a really bad scientific argument, Part 9: Peer Review

Make an appeal to peer review.    This is another variation on the appeal to authority, although some may not see it as such.  There is a built-in assumption that peer review (as practiced in academic journals) produces quality work, or rejects lower-quality work, or increases the probability that a paper is true.  Of course it may or may not do any of those things.  Problems can slip through peer review.  Even deliberate fraud can appear in peer-reviewed papers.  Some researchers have selected their friends to review papers, to ensure they get through.  Or they use peer review to block papers they don’t want published.

Instead of (journal-style) peer review, scientists should stress openness and replication.  There seems to be a problem with researchers being able to replicate published work.  But that replication crisis in peer-reviewed papers is just psychology, right?  OK, it’s in “cultural studies” (whatever that is).  But never in a ‘real’ science like biology or medicine even physics and engineering.  Short answer: if your science is bad (via bias, fraud, carelessness, misunderstanding, etc.), peer review will not make it good.  So if you want to argue a flawed position based on a flawed paper, “it’s in a peer-reviewed journal!” If you want to shoot down a valid, logical argument, “it never even had peer review!”  See how easy that is?  Much easier than working out the logic and evidence.

Peer Review

Peer Review, again

 

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