More Peer Review - More Garbage

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Mon Oct 9 10:27:54 EST 1995

Further comments - A.Berezon

On 9 Oct 1995, Simon Brocklehurst wrote:

> berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) wrote:
> >
> stuff deleted...

> >This is not the point. Nothing works always. The problem
> >is that (anonymous) peer review has a CONSISTENT negative 
> >bias - suppression of originality and coercion to safe
> >science. Read the literature before making arbitray claims. 

>   Sorry, but you will find a lot of people who would say their
> papers are improved by going through the peer review process.
> There are problems getting really new/difficult-to-understand
> things into some general scientific journals.  But this
> is not much to do with the peer review process - rather it's a lot
> to do with a lack of understanding on the part of the (non-peer) 
> editorial teams.

You don't hear an important  point the authors of the (most)
of the earlier 
quoted papers make : for the most part our criticism of the
anonymity of PR is NOT about publications of papers but about
the research funding decisions. Usage (and limtations) of peer 
review for these two cases (journals and funding) is quite 
different matter. Please read some papers if you truly want
 to appreciate the diference (refs list repeated below).

Nowdays virtually everything you wrote and really determined 
to see published, will find its way to press. In the age of 
afforadble info technology and plenty of venture publishers
it is not a serious problem any longer. What IS a major 
problem is the reward system (counting peer reviewed
papers and assessing "prestige of journals"). This is
where grantsmaship and publish-perish get together to 
produce what (we argue) is a highly undesirable overall 

>  This is not an important problem though - although
> it makes these journals somewhat more mediocre than they perhaps should be.

>   Obviously, if the peer review process is not anonymous, the 
> referees 
> won't feel able to give their true opinions in many cases.

The above argument is heard very often. However many critics
of ANOMIMOUS peer review pointed out that it has very little 
logistic merit :
(1) It pre-supposes that people somehow "are more honest
and open" when covered by anonymity. For all but very special
circumstances (e.g. protecton of crime reporter) this 
assumption is a plain nonsense.
(2) People claim that if PR will be open, there will be
cases of personal vendetta from the authors of rejected paper. 
This is another highly unlikely assumption. Even in much
more commercially compatitive areas (fictional litereture, 
music, sports, etc) WHERE ALL CRITICIS IS ALWAYS OPEN (signed)
the cases of vendetta against "bad reporters" is all but 
extreme rarity (if happen at all).  Certainly, not anything
on the scale of potential mass problem in science. 


Berezin, A. A. (1993). The SSC and peer review. Physics World 
(Dec.), 19. 

Berezin, A. A., R. Gordon & G. Hunter (1995). Anonymous peer   
     review and the QWERTY effect. Amer. Physics Soc. News,  
     March 1995. 

Berezin, A. A. & G. Hunter (1994). Myth of competition and NSERC
     policy of selectivity. Canadian Chemical News  46(3), 4-5. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1983). Canadian medical research strategy for    
     the Eighties I. Damage-limitation or superelitism? Med.      
     Hypotheses  11, 141-145. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1983). Canadian medical research strategy for    
     the Eighties II. Promise or performance as the basis for the 
     distribution of research funds? Med. Hypotheses  11,         

Forsdyke, D. R. (1989). Sudden-death funding system. FASEB J.     
     3(10), 2221. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1989). A systems analyst asks about AIDS         
     research funding. Lancet  2(December 9), 1382-1384. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1991). Bicameral grant review: an alternative to 
     conventional peer review. FASEB J.  5, 2312-2314. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1992). Bicameral grant review: how a systems     
     analyst with AIDS would reform research funding.
     Accountability in Research  3, 1-5. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1993). On giraffes and peer review. FASEB J.  7, 

Forsdyke, D. R.(1994). Authorship and misconduct. Nature 370, 91. 

Forsdyke, D. R. (1994). A theoretical basis for accepting         
     undergraduate academic record as a predictor of subsequent   
     success in a research career. Implications for peer review.  
     Accountability in Research  3, 269-274. 

Gordon, R. (1993). Grant agencies versus the search for truth. 
     Accountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance   
     2, 1-5. 

Gordon, R. (1993). Alternative reviews. University Affairs        
     (Assoc.of Universities and Colleges of Canada) 34(6), 26. 

Horrobin, D. (1981/1982). Peer review: Is the good the enemy of   
     the best?  J. Res. Communic. Stud.  3, 327-334. 

Horrobin, D. F. (1990). The philosophical basis of peer review    
     and the suppression of innovation. J. Amer. Med. Assoc.      
     263(10), 1438-1441. 

Kenward, Michael. (1984). Peer review and the axe murderers",
     New Scientist, 102 (1412), p. 13 (31 May, 1984). 

McCutchen, Charles W. (1991). Peer Review: Treacherous Servant,
     Disastrous Master. Technology Review, vol. 94, #7,  
     (October 1991), 28-40.

Osmond, D. H. (1983). Malice's Wonderland: research funding and   
     peer review. J. Neurobiol.  14(2), 95-112.

Savan, Beth. (1990). Science Under Siege (The Myth of             
     Objectivity in Scientific Research, CBC Enterprises,         
     Toronto, 1988. 

Szent-Gyorgyi, Albert. (1972). Dionysians and                     
      Apollonians, Science, 176, 966 (1972).

More information about the Bioforum mailing list