ATTENTION: You are viewing a page formatted for mobile devices; to view the full web page, click HERE.

Main Area and Open Discussion > Living Room

Peer Review and the Scientific Process

<< < (20/47) > >>

^ Searching for "Monsatan":

Peer Review and the Scientific Process

And so many, many more...

Rumour has it that they don't serve GMOs in their cafeteria. Hm...

Here is some sage advice on thinking from Bertrand Russell, in regard to teaching, and which could equally well be applied to science and peer review. I have copied it below from an RSS feed I subscribe to at (well worth a read)
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
British philosopher, mathematician, historian, and social critic Bertrand Russell endures as one of the most intellectually diverse and influential thinkers in modern history, his philosophy of religion in particular having shaped the work of such modern atheism champions as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. From the third volume of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1944-1969 comes this remarkable micro-manifesto, entitled A Liberal Decalogue — a vision for responsibilities of a teacher, in which Russell touches on a number of recurring themes from pickings past — the purpose of education, the value of uncertainty, the importance of critical thinking, the gift of intelligent criticism, and more.
It originally appeared in the December 16, 1951, issue of The New York Times Magazine, at the end of the article “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.”
Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

* 1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
* 2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
* 3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
* 4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
* 5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
* 6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
* 7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
* 8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
* 9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
* 10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell is a treasure trove of wisdom in its entirety — highly recommended.

--- End quote ---

There have been several scientific frauds covered in this discussion thread, and today I was reading a new review of one of the biggest such frauds - a fraud with an effective lifetime that spanned approx. 40 years, even getting into school textbooks on prehistory as a bona fide discovery of palaeontology: Piltdown Man: Untangling One of the Most Infamous Hoaxes in Scientific History—Blog—The Appendix
What is especially interesting here is that several very distinguished scientists apparently collaborated in this deliberate fraud, in peer review and invention, and even today we are not entirely sure about the "why"/motivation for doing it. The urge that some scientists evidently sometimes succumb to - to create a fraud - is nothing particularly new or peculiar to modern-day science, though the motives are not necessarily fully understood or the same in each case.
(The review is copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
Piltdown Man: Untangling One of the Most Infamous Hoaxes in Scientific History

Posted by Lydia Pyne on May 16, 2014

Few scientific forgeries have captured the scientific and public imaginations as completely as that of the 1912 Piltdown Man hoax. While examples of blatant fraud can be found in many scientific disciplines over the centuries, out-and-out forgeries and hoaxes prove to be relatively rare. The Piltdown Man is one of the most studied and least resolved incidents in the history of paleoanthropology – an episode surrounded by mystery and intrigue.

It would seem that just about everyone who is anyone in the paleo-community of the last sixty years has a theory about who perpetrated the fossil hoax; why it lasted as long as it did (forty years); and what Piltdown meant (and means) to paleoanthropology. Suspects charged with perpetrating the hoax have included the fossil’s discoverer Charles Dawson, scientific notables like William J. Sollas and Sir Arthur Keith, and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

A 1915 group portrait by John Cooke, Charles Dawson and others associated with the Piltdown find. Wikimedia Commons

In the first decade of twentieth-century, the fledgling discipline had few fossils to hang its science on. A couple of Neanderthal skulls, a few specimens from France, some scattered skeletal elements from around Europe, a skull from Australia – to say nothing of Eugene Dubois’s famous 1891 find in Java (which he termed Pithecanthropus erectus) which firmly established Southeast Asia as an epicenter of human evolution for the scientific communities of Europe. Equally as debated as the geographic origin of human ancestry was the evolutionary sequence of “human-like” traits and the order that these traits appear in the fossil record. For the early twentieth-century paleo-community, the question of whether brains (read: a surrogate for culture) developed before or after bipedalism (read: non-cultural anatomy) occupied a good proportion of paleo-research efforts.

The Piltdown material itself came to the attention of British intellectuals, like paleontologist Arthur Smith Woodward, via the British Museum upon the fossil’s excavation in 1912. The Piltdown fossil consisted of a mandibular fragment (the lower jaw) as well as portions of the crania (the skull), recovered from the Piltdown gravels of East Sussex by antiquarian Charles Dawson. The find was promptly and rather grandiosely named Eoanthropus dawsoni.

Skull of the “Eoanthropus Dawsoni” (Piltdown Man). Wellcome Images

Woodward claimed that the find pointed to a “missing link” in the chain of human evolution – a fossil that could be reconstructed as a human ancestor with a large brain. This would have been a testament to the long-term significance of culture and intellectual prowess in the evolution of Homo sapiens.

Woodward wasn’t alone in his interpretation. The Piltdown fossils became readily accepted by the paleo-community. Indeed, many fossils found in subsequent decades (such as the 1925 Taung Child in South Africa) were ignored due to the influence of Piltdown. Even prominent American paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn (then-president of the American Museum of Natural History) declared the skull and jaw a perfect fit and the specimen fascinating.

A photograph by John Frisby of Uckfield, showing excavations at the Piltdown gravels in 1912. Standing centre left in the picture is the white-bearded figure of Arthur Smith Woodward and working in the trench on the right is Charles Dawson, the local solicitor who had "discovered" the skull of "Piltdown Man." Photo and caption courtesy of

Arthur Smith Woodward and Uckfield photographer John Frisby inspect the excavations at Piltdown in 1912. Arthur Smith Woodward was a palaeontologist and Keeper of Geology at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.

In 1953, a committee of sorts convened to evaluate the growing dissatisfaction with the fossil and the evidence against it being legitimate. In the end, “fossil” was demonstrated to comprise three “modern” species – a human skull, an orangutan jaw, and chimpanzee teeth. The teeth had been filed down and the entire set of bones stained with an iron solution. A few scientists in the early days of the fossil’s fame (like Franz Weidenreich, discoverer of the 1930s fossils ascribed to the so-called Peking Man) declared the fossil a forgery, but it wasn’t until 40 years after the fossil’s entry into the paleo community that is was exposed for what it was.

But what was it? A forgery? A hoax? A joke? A gross error in bending facts to fit a theory?

On some level, the Piltdown “fossil” is all of these things. However, it is also an important lesson not only about early twentieth-century science's search for a missing link, but also our own. In a discourse where chains, links, and linearity are treated not only as helpful metaphors ("the Great Chain of Being," "the Tree of Life"), but as actual explanation for biological phenomenon, Piltdown Man serves as a reminder that missing links can also be invented ones.

A reconstruction of the Piltdown man in three quarters profile. Wellcome Images

Acknowledgments: The author would like to acknowledge the Pennoni Honors College, Drexel University and the generous time and conversations of Dr. Francis Thackery (University of Witwatersrand.)
Recommended Links
    The Piltdown Inquest by Charles Blinderman
    Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery by Frank Spencer
    Bones of Contention by Roger Lewin

--- End quote ---

I thought this was a spoof at first, but no, it's true. Not sure whether this shouldn't be in the silly humour thread as certainly gave me larf.
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
The Peer Review Scam: Why not review your own paper?
If you suffer from an uncontrollable urge to claim that peer review is a part of The Scientific Method (that’s you Matthew Bailes, Pro VC of Swinburne), the bad news just keeps on coming.  Now, we can add the terms “Peer Review Rigging” to “Peer-review tampering”, and “Citation Rings”.

Not only do personal biases and self-serving interests mean good papers are slowed for years and rejected for inane reasons, but gibberish gets published, and in some fields most results can’t be replicated. Now we find (is anyone surprised?) that some authors are even reviewing their own work. It’s called Peer-Review-Rigging. When the editor asks for suggestions of reviewers, you provide pseudonyms and bogus emails. The editor sends the review to a gmail type address, you pick it up, and voila, you can pretend to be an independent reviewer.

One researcher, Hyung-In Moon, was doing this to review his own submissions. He was caught because he sent the reviews back in less than 24 hours. Presumably if he’d waiting a week, no one would have noticed.
Nature reports: “THE PEER-REVIEW SCAM”

Authors: Cat Ferguson, Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky are the staff writer and two co-founders, respectively, of Retraction Watch in New York City.

Moon’s was not an isolated case. In the past 2 years, journals have been forced to retract more than 110 papers in at least 6 instances of peer-review rigging. What all these cases had in common was that researchers exploited vulnerabilities in the publishers’ computerized systems to dupe editors into accepting manuscripts, often by doing their own reviews. The cases involved publishing behemoths Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, SAGE and Wiley, as well as Informa, and they exploited security flaws that — in at least one of the systems — could make researchers vulnerable to even more serious identity theft. “For a piece of software that’s used by hundreds of thousands of academics worldwide, it really is appalling,” says Mark Dingemanse, a linguist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen,

Even Moon himself thinks the editors should “police the system against people like him”.

“editors are supposed to check they are not from the same institution or co-authors on previous papers.”

That would rule out half the publications in the climate science world.

The worst case involved 130 papers:

….a case that came to light in May 2013, when Ali Nayfeh, then editor-in-chief of the Journal of Vibration
and Control, received some troubling news. An author who had submitted a paper to the journal told Nayfeh that he had received e-mails about it from two people claiming to direct contact with authors, and — strangely —the e-mails came from generic-looking Gmail accounts rather than from the professional institutional accounts that many academics use (see ‘Red flags in review’). Nayfeh alerted SAGE, the company in Thousand Oaks, California, that publishes the journal. The editors there e-mailed both the Gmail addresses provided by the tipster, and the institutional addresses of the authors whose names had been used, asking for proof of identity and a list of their publications. One scientist responded — to say that not only had he not sent the e-mail, but he did not even work in the field.

This sparked a 14-month investigation that  came to involve about 20 people from SAGE’s editorial, legal and production departments. It showed that the Gmail addresses were each linked to accounts with Thomson Reuters’ ScholarOne, a publication-management system used by SAGE and several other publishers, including Informa. Editors were able to track every paper that the person or people behind these accounts had allegedly written or reviewed, says SAGE spokesperson Camille Gamboa. They also checked the wording of reviews, the details of author-nominated reviewers, reference lists and the turnaround time for reviews (in some cases, only a few minutes). This helped the investigators to ferret out further suspicious-looking accounts; they eventually found 130. As they worked through the list, SAGE investigators realized that authors were both reviewing and citing each other at an anomalous rate. Eventually, 60 articles were found to have evidence of peer-review tampering, involvement in the citation ring or both.

Those 60 papers were retracted.

Nature, of course, is happy to air problems that mostly apply to its competitors. When will Nature admit that namecalling, and failures of logic and reason are every bit as damaging to science as rank corruption?

Ht to Willie.

--- End quote ---

Interesting. It's the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014. A very concise bill - doesn't seem to mandate anything regarding the peer review process, but goes straight to the heart of the matter.
Again, I'm not sure whether this shouldn't be in the silly humour thread as well... :-[
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
Abuse of Science in Texas
By Anne LeHuray

On November 19, 2014, the House of Representatives passed HR 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014. The bill would prohibit the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulations based on “science that is not transparent or reproducible.” Hooray! Reproducibility is the touchstone of science.  Transparency is the way to ensure that scientists who want to reproduce another scientist’s results can try to do so. No scientist anywhere would argue against reproducibility, nor should any scientist argue that research results used to make regulatory decisions (such as drug approvals, emission limits, product bans) be exempt from transparency. Unfortunately, transparency has not always been a priority.  Examples of the current reproducibility crisis in the sciences can be found here, here, here, here, and here. A requirement to use transparent, reproducible science should apply to all government agencies, not just EPA. The government need not replicate the science itself, just make sure the information needed for reproducibility is readily available. Just one of the many examples from the pavement coatings industry’s decade-long effort to obtain data from the U.S. Geological Survey illustrates the point. ... (Read more at the link.)

--- End quote ---


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

[*] Previous page

Go to full version