Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Science Is A Single Mind, Learning

The Notrickszone has a post on the trouble with peer review, and the following is my (by now habitual) response:

Ordinary people need to understand that there are basically two kinds of scientist when it comes to the peer-review process: 1) Principal Investigators, and 2) Everyone else, including a) Research Associates, who are simply employees, without tenure, who can be "terminated"--fired--without cause, and b)"expert" (a meaningless word these days) consultants from other fields or other institutions (also known as "pals", as in "pal review", get it?).

When the subject of peer review comes up these days, I trot out my 2003 letter on peer review to the OMB, when it requested feedback on peer review (see also all 2003 Public Comments on Peer Review that they received).

My bottom line, from experience: "peer review ... is a system akin to that of independent feudal lords or warring tribal chiefs", i.e., those "Principal Investigators" whose main concerns are keeping their research grant money coming in year after year, and being taken as the unquestioned authorities in their fields (which mainly requires they never allow even the possibility they could be wrong about the "settled science", as the "Emperor" must be peerless, in their own minds). As you can see, the fundamental mindset is that of "survival of the fittest and I must be the fittest"--and (LEARN THIS, people) that mindset (also known as "the struggle for scarce resources") is NOT the way to the TRUTH in science (despite what you may think you have learned "the hard way" in life). True science--uncovering the truth--is NOT a competition (or a social construct, as in "postnormal science" or even a "consensus"), in any way, shape or form. It is, fundamentally, a single mind, learning something true (cause and effect) about the world--period.