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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Silence is Another Problem for Peer Review

First, an update. I was informed by Radar's wife that he had knee surgery one week ago. It was successful, but he is in considerable pain. We are asking the Christian readers to join us in praying for his full and rapid recovery. -CBB

Although some people hide behind the "Yeah, but it's not peer reviewed!" concept, secular peer review processes have some serious drawbacks. In addition, people who believe in Scientism (where "science" is the only way to discern truth) do a disservice to scientists by expecting them to be more than human. Although they should have higher standards of integrity and objectivity, they are human and subjected to avarice just like you and me. (Also, some people think that scientists are completely objective and dispassionate, but that ignores both the scientific process and human nature.) They also seek success, recognition and grant money.

What value is there in doing a study, recording all the steps and set-up, making notes and then saying, "Here is the study. It was a waste of time?" Actually, it has quite a bit of value. There is a disputed quote attributed to Thomas Edison about his failures in inventing the light bulb: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work". Even if he did not say it, there is some value to that remark. Just like reporting a failed result in a peer reviewed paper, scientists can help other scientists and not give artificially inflated value to successful results.
Sociology is under scrutiny, but the issues apply to all of science.

Is there a message in nothing? Yes, Jeffrey Mervis said in Science Magazine. When a scientist gets a null or empty result, that’s still a result. It should be announced, so that other scientists know what doesn’t work, not just what works. Publication of null results is valuable. It saves time by avoiding needless repetition. It also presents a more accurate picture of the world. As PhysOrg’s headline by Bob Yirka reads, “lack of published null result papers skews reliability of those that are published.” That’s a serious charge. It means that published papers suffer credibility loss when null results are not shared.

The question of what to do with null results has plagued medical research, where people’s lives could be on the line. The Stanford team now found similar publication bias in social and behavioral sciences.
To review the rest of this article, click on "Peer Reviewed Science Can Mislead in a Major Way".

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