Reer Review: More Harm than Good

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Mon Jan 22 19:56:23 EST 1996

On Mon, 22 Jan 1996, Simon M. Brocklehurst wrote:

> Alexander Berezin wrote:
> > 
> > Yes, I consider all the above factors, and nonetheless
> > maintainn that the estimate 90 % is still quite robust.
> > Even the legacy of great scientists can be adequately
> > presented in 10 to 30 papers in many cases (for Einstein
> > probally in about 10). So, the publication lists of
> > some 300-400 lifetime papers are inflated by about the
> > factor of 10 (and of course, not only for 'great'
> > scientists).
>    No.  If one is to publish in such a way as to allow others
> a reasonable chance of repeating a piece of work, one can't
> simply summarize many years of research in a few pages.
> Also, many people find writing up their work for publication an
> invaluable exercise i.e. it's a good way of forcing you to think 
> carefully about the work you've been doing and to put it properly in
> context.

>    And... has it ever occurred to you that plenty of people don't 
> feel that they are somehow being _forced_ to publish their work?  They
> actually enjoy it!

So, Simon, you want to play it the other way around and 
say that what we mostly publish is what we believe is 
important. Fine. I can buy this. But it still does not add 
up to putting any high tag on peer review. Yes, I can say 
that when I submit a paper I do so not because I am 'forced'
(by grantsmanship pressure of whatever), but because
I 'geninely believe that I have something important to say'.
Great. But, if so, the benefit of doubt should be mine and 
Peer Review (anonymous or not) is at best a nuisance which 
I have to circumvent (to cheat, if you wish). 
Experienced science 'wolves' (I humbly count myself among)
more-or-less learned how to do. But many young and talented 
(perhaps more telented than us) are crashed and pushed out.

If you want to argue for PR further, please give us ONE 
SINGLE EXAMPLE of major science breakthrough which is
owes its existence to the blessed effecet of the anonymous 
peer review. (yes, I know that people occasionally thank 
anonymous peer reviewrs in 'acknowledgements', but I don't 
count this as more than a token).   

> > And remenber: NON-junk rate of ca. 10 % is still
> > quite high.
>   Well I don't agree with you that 10% non-junk is a 
> high figure.  But because you appear to think so, perhaps
> you will agree that the current system of peer review works
> effectively, and that there is, therefore, no need to
> abandon it.

Regardless of the figure (10 % non-junk or any higher),
I still don't see much real merit in science process from 
the side of APR (apart from minor cosmetic effects). APR 
[ even in your scheme ] remains an imposter, which claims 
a lot of things in science, but on the ground does much 
more harm than good. Occasional minor improvements of 
manuscripts due to APR are not even closely offset but 
all destructive effects APR brings into science. Sorry, 
no APR in 21 century, we should bury this monster in this 

> Simon M. Brocklehurst,


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