Friday, November 21

Geniuses are not peer-reviewed


Do you know the feeling during a discussion when after explaining something that is not common sense someone asks:
"Is there any peer reviewed article about all these nonsense you're saying?"
I dedicate this post to them.
Geniuses and those who dare to dissent have no peers.

Is Peer-Review a Requirement of Good Science?
Idea
Excerpts

Good Science without Peer-Review
Some of the most important and groundbreaking work in the history of science first appeared in published form not in peer-reviewed scientific journal articles but in scientific books. That includes Copernicus' De Revolutionibus and Newton's Principia. Einstein's original paper on relativity was published in a scientific journal (Annalen der Physik), but did not undergo formal peer-review.1 Indeed, Darwin's own theory of evolution was first published in a book for a general and scientific audience -- his Origin of Species -- not in a peer-reviewed paper. 

Moreover, important scientific work has not uncommonly been initially rejected by peer-reviewed journals. As a 2001 article in Science observed, "Mention 'peer review' and almost every scientist will regale you with stories about referees submitting nasty comments, sitting on a manuscript forever, or rejecting a paper only to repeat the study and steal the glory."2 Indeed, an article in the journal Science Communication by Juan Miguel Campanario notes that top journals such as "Science and Nature have also sometimes rejected significant papers," and in fact "Nature has even rejected work that eventually earned the Nobel Prize."3 In an amusing letter titled "Not in our Nature," Campanario reminds the journal of four examples where it rejected significant papers:
(1) In 1981, Nature rejected a paper by the British biochemist Robert H. Michell on signalling reaction by hormones. This paper has since been cited more than 1,800 times.

(2) In June 1937, Nature rejected Hans Krebs's letter describing the citric acid cycle. Krebs won the 953 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for this discovery.

(3) Nature initially rejected a paper on work for which Harmut Michel won the 1988 Nobel prize for chemistry; it has been identified by the Institute of Scientific Information as a core document and widely cited.

(4) A paper by Michael J. Berridge, rejected in 1983 by Nature, ranks at number 275 in a list of the most-cited papers of all time. It has been cited more than 1,900 times.4
Elsewhere, Campanario lists "instances in which 36 future Nobel Laureates encountered resistance on the part of scientific journal editors or referees to manuscripts that dealt with discoveries that on later dates would assure them the Nobel Prize."5 Likewise, Tulane University physicist Frank Tipler offers the following anecdotes:

  • "Another example is Günter Blobel, who in a news conference given just after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, said that the main problem one encounters in one's research is 'when your grants and papers are rejected because some stupid reviewer rejected them for dogmatic adherence to old ideas.' According to the New York Times, these comments 'drew thunderous applause from the hundreds of sympathetic colleagues and younger scientists in the auditorium.'"


  • "[W]hen [Stephen] Hawking submitted to Nature what is generally regarded as his most important paper, the paper on black hole evaporation, the paper was initially rejected. I have heard from colleagues who must remain nameless that when Hawking submitted to Physical Review what I personally regard as his most important paper, his paper showing that a most fundamental law of physics called 'unitarity' would be violated in black hole evaporation, it, too, was initially rejected."


  • "Today it is known that the Hawaiian Islands were formed sequentially as the Pacific plate moved over a hot spot deep inside the Earth. The theory was first developed in the paper by an eminent Princeton geophysicist, Tuzo Wilson: 'I ... sent [my paper] to the Journal of Geophysical Research. They turned it down.... They said my paper had no mathematics in it, no new data, and that it didn't agree with the current views. Therefore, it must be no good.'"


  • "On the Nobel Prize web page one can read the autobiographies of recent laureates. Quite a few complain that they had great difficulty publishing the ideas that won them the Prize."6
  • In light of these kinds of examples, Campanario concludes:
    Something is wrong with the peer review system when an expert considers that a manuscript is not of enough interest and it later becomes a classic in its discipline (or, even worse, when the work reported in a rejected paper earns the Nobel Prize). ... Contrary to reports by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences, publication in a peer-reviewed journal is not necessarily the best means of identifying valid research.7 (read the article)


    No comments: