July 8, 2010

THE PROBLEM with peer review. “Especially for papers that rely on empirical work with painstakingly assembled datasets, the only way for peer reviewers to do the kind of thorough vetting that many commentators seem to imagine is implied by the words ‘peer review’ would be to . . . well, go back and re-do the whole thing. Obviously, this is not what happens. . . . After all, Michael Bellesiles’ central work was all peer reviewed–and passed with flying colors even though some of the numbers in one of his most important tables did not add up correctly.” But when the scandal first broke, lots of his defenders stressed that he had published in peer-reviewed journals. No peer-reviewers, as far as I know, took responsibility when the fraud was revealed.

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