Peer Review: WHO pays ?

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Nov 2 22:24:39 EST 1995

On 2 Nov 1995, Graham Clark wrote:

> -On most statements above you will undoubtedly find a 
> -large degree of disagreemnt. I can settle with you on 
> -(essentially) all the above, PROVIDED you are ready to 
> -admit that option B should be available to those who 
> -choose to use it. 

> By all means have a separate non-peer reviewed literature if
> you want. Just don't expect us to pay for it or for it to be
> as highly regarded as the peer reviwed literature.

You say: (1) ... don't expect 'us' to pay for it ...
         (2) ... to be 'highly regarded' as ...


(1) Who are "us" who are paying (or expect to pay) ? Your 
science (as well as mine) is supported (for the most 
part at least) by taxpayeres - it is THEIR money which 
we spend on OUR research. And hardly anyone has any 
doubt at this point that (potentially research) money can 
be easily spend elsewhere. (If you don't believe, ask
Gingrich). YOU (as a researcher) don't pay for anything.
In fact, it is precisely the opposite: you are PAID to do 
your reserarch AND spend your WORKING (i.e. PAID) time 
on anonymous peer review (please, don't try to convince 
me that you do it in your leisure time on weekends). So, 
I see not much legitimacy in you saying the above ("don't 
expect us to pay..."). Despite that it may appear to
you that "you" have the right to order the music - you 
don't. (and to avoid your objections, I, as your EQUAL
colleague in science, don't claim this right either).

(2) ...'highly regarded'...

regarded BY WHOM ? By you ? By me ? By public ? By feds ? 
By "science at large" ? ...

> -Overwise, we are back on square one and 
> -no matter how the terms can be relabled the system 
> -essentially remains a censorship and the only practical 
> -way to deal with it is to get around it. Similarly to tax 
> -evaders who learn how to get around the revinue, we are 
> -(most of us) learning how to cheat the peer review system. 

> This to me is an appalling admission.

Yes, it is appaling if you have never heard/thought of
this before. I suggest another book: Erwin Chargaff
(co-discoverer of DNA) "Heraclethen Fire". You will 
find the above views on peer review and ethos in Big
Science (which you say are "appaling") are quite well
articulated by a persons whose reputation should mean
something for you. (and, of course, there are many other 
references to this end - should you wish I can send you 
much longer list).

> -(Anonymous) peer review (APR) is simply a nuisance 
> -(mistake of science history) we are to live with 
> -at present time (fortunately, not for much longer) and 
> -not a single argument was presented that APR indeed 
> -serves a truly positive purpose save minor cosmetics. 

> You are just unwilling to accept ANY arguments in favor of APR.

I will be happy to do so, but so far have not seen a
single one.  

> -Nothing what you say above about the constructibve comments 
> -from colleagues helping you to improve the manuscript 
> -requires ANONYMOUS peer review  - you will get much 
> -(MUCH !) better mileage on this by asking your colleagues 
> -DIRECTLY to read your manuscript and give you criticism or 
> -comments (self-administerd peer review, if you wish;
> -undoubtedly we are more qualified than anyone else to
> -know who understands your work the best and who can 
> -provide you the best input).

> As does everyone else I know, I already ask colleagues to read
> manuscripts before submission. That has not stopped me from getting
> valuable input from anonymous reviewers. Perhaps anonymity allows
> for more honesty, I don't know.

Once again, I don't stop you from using APR if you believe
you benefit from it. This is my option (A) which I have 
spelled out in yesterday's posting. For God sake, enjoy it, 
if it fits you.

But those who don't find they benefit from APR, and find
the very fact of using anonymity in science anti-intellectual
should be free to use option (B) (open reviewing + the AUTHOR 
decides if the paper is to be publish despite harsh criticism 
and with signed referees reports published as well).

> -As a scientist you likely know that the best (and, 
> -actually, the only) instrument (in science at least) to 
> -resolve the issues is to conduct the experiments. 
> -What I am suggesting is a (broadly speaking) an experiment
> -and you say that you don't see the point to conduct such
> -an experiment because you ALREADY decided that the 
> -result will be negative. Scientifically this means
> -that you subscribe to a metaphysics (a-priori knowledge). 
> -Anonymous peer review (APR) as a science benefactor
> -is one of such myths, now (fortunately) is about to
> -crumble.  

> As I said above, there is nothing to stop you from doing the 
> experiment just don't expect us to pay for it. Are you also 
> suggesting that APR has no place in the grant system? That 
> anyone who wants to do an experiment should be funded?

I am sorry, it appears you didn't quite get what we've 
been saying all along. You still believe that "us" (who
"us" ?) are somehow have priveledged entitlement to 
control what other scientists can or can not publish or
research. Who (and on what basis) give "you" this right ?

"anyone who wants to do an experiment should be funded":

precisely, for as long as he/she can reliably demonstate
his/her qualifications (track record assessment - I am
NOT against this and this is NOT a peer review). 

> Graham
>   ________________________________________________________
>   C. Graham Clark, Ph.D.
>   Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases,
>   National Institutes of Health,
>   Bethesda, MD 20892
>   Ph.: 301-496-4740
>   FAX: 301-402-4941
>   e-mail: gclark at

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