Member # 1
posted 01. July 2003 07:02
Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?
by Frank J. Tipler
Abstract- The notion that a scientific idea cannot be considered intellectually respectable until it has first appeared in a "peer" reviewed journal did not become widespread until after World War II. Copernicus's heliocentric system, Galileo's mechanics, Newton's grand synthesis -- these ideas never appeared first in journal articles. They appeared first in books, reviewed prior to publication only by their authors, or by their authors' friends. Even Darwin never submitted his idea of evolution driven by natural selection to a journal to be judged by "impartial" referees. Darwinism indeed first appeared in a journal, but one under the control of Darwin's friends. And Darwin's article was completely ignored. Instead, Darwin made his ideas known to his peers and to the world at large through a popular book: On the Origin of Species. I shall argue that prior to the Second World War the refereeing process, even where it existed, had very little effect on the publication of novel ideas, at least in the field of physics. But in the last several decades, many outstanding physicists have complained that their best ideas -- the very ideas that brought them fame -- were rejected by the refereed journals. Thus, prior to the Second World War, the refereeing process worked primarily to eliminate crackpot papers. Today, the refereeing process works primarily to enforce orthodoxy. I shall offer evidence that "peer" review is NOT peer review: the referee is quite often not as intellectually able as the author whose work he judges. We have pygmies standing in judgment on giants. I shall offer suggestions on ways to correct this problem, which, if continued, may seriously impede, if not stop, the advance of science.
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[ 01. July 2003, 07:07: Message edited by: Moderator ]