There has been quite a bit of comment on this web-blog about the importance of peer review (e.g. see comments following my post of 29th April 2005, titled What do Geologists Know about Climate?).
Peer review refers to a researcher’s work being vetted by his/her colleagues as part of the publication process. The idea is that the non-expert can have a high level of confidence in articles, reports, reviews, papers in ‘reputable’journals because the work has been thoroughly ‘checked’ by others with expertise in the field.
I generally believe in peer review as a process.
I greatly appreciated the constructive criticisms I received from anonymous expert reviewers when I published as a research entomologist. Indeed at that time I mostly only read the peer reviewed literature in my areas of expertise and interest.
However, once one moves from the relatively mundane-type of research I was undertaking in the 1980s to mid 1990s, into politically sensitive research on big ticket environmental icons like the Great Barrier Reef and Murray Darling Basin … well, I have discovered the peer review process just doesn’t seem to work.
Indeed it has been my observation that many research ‘managers’are being paid very high salaries to virtually ensure the research from their ‘research team’ actually confirms policy decisions that governments have already more-or-less made, often as election commitments, often as a consequence of intense environmental campaigning from organisations like the WWF.
It seems certain assumptions are just not allowed to be challenged!
I will use my work on the Murray River as an example to illustrate this point – perhaps in my next blog-post which will probably be tomorrow.