Three myths about scientific peer review

  1. Scientists have always used peer review
    • Most journals didn’t use it until mid 20th century
    • Only 1/300 Einstein paper was subject to peer review
    • 1936 Physical review had recently instituted peer review
      Einstein’s indignant reply to the editor is amusing to modern scientific sensibilities, and suggests someone quite unfamiliar with peer review:
      *Dear Sir,*
      *We (Mr. Rosen and I) had sent you our manuscript for publication and had not authorized you to show it to specialists before it is printed. I see no reason to address the in any case erroneous comments of your anonymous expert. On the basis of this incident I prefer to publish the paper elsewhere.*
      *P.S. Mr. Rosen, who has left for the Soviet Union, has authorized me to represent him in this matter.*
      Nature didn’t have formal peer review system until 1967
      Three factors led to peer review
  2. Specialization
  3. Increase in number of publications
  4. Ability to copy papers
    In short Editors could no longer review on their own and could get other people to do it

  5. Peer review is reliable

  6. Not much evidence that peer review works well
  7. Doesn’t catch deliberately inserted errors
  8. Discoveries almost destroyed by peer review The Philosophical Basis of Peer Review and the Suppression of Innovation | JAMA | JAMA Network

  9. Peer review is how we determine what is right and wrong in science

    • Science worked fine before peer review





  10. Isn’t peer review basically decision by committee?


  11. §Academia Constraints


  12. Michael Nielsen characterizes institution building as making previously illegible things legible


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