A Fascinating Story

A comment


“The semantic and sociological issues in this discussion remind me of the frailties of peer review and what is considered to be a “mainstream” idea. A classic study on peer review, published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1982, did the following. The authors took “12 already published research articles by investigators from prestigious and highly productive American psychology departments, one article from each of 12 highly regarded and widely read American psychology journals with high rejection rates (80%) and nonblind refereeing practices. With fictitious names and institutions substituted for the original ones (e.g., Tri-Valley Center for Human Potential), the altered manuscripts were formally resubmitted to the journals that had originally refereed and published them 18 to 32 months earlier. Of the sample of 38 editors and reviewers, only three (8%) detected the resubmissions. This result allowed nine of the 12 articles to continue through the review process to receive an actual evaluation: eight of the nine were rejected. Sixteen of the 18 referees (89%) recommended against publication and the editors concurred. The grounds for rejection were in many cases described as ‘serious methodological flaws.'”


This simultaneously sad and funny outcome has not improved much three decades later, as this 2006 article indicates in an article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. It concludes that “Peer review is a flawed process, full of easily identified defects with little evidence that it works. Nevertheless, it is likely to remain central to science and journals because there is no obvious alternative, and scientists and editors have a continuing belief in peer review. How odd that science should be rooted in belief.”


Or, perhaps it’s not so odd after all, given that everything we know is ultimately rooted in one belief or another.”


Best wishes,

Dean Radin

Senior Scientist

Institute of Noetic Science