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Re: A little off subject...Re: Sue had no wishbone...

In a message dated 2/25/01 6:12:16 PM EST, Dinogeorge@aol.com writes:

<< [The numerous &#nbsp; tags (two of which occur in the above), lamentably, 
 make your post difficult to read and reply to. Any way you can repost with 
 them deleted?] >>

Never mind--did it for you:

Hi George:

You said:

"No, peer review is no criterion for deciding whether something that someone 
is saying is scientifically meaningful. The criterion for deciding whether 
someone is saying something scientifically meaningful is nothing more nor 
less than whether he or she >is< saying something scientifically meaningful. 
Peer review may sometimes be helpful is getting your work accepted, but this 
is not the same thing as producing scientifically meaningful work."

Well, this seems a bit circular, because the criterion you're using to 
evaluate "scientifically meaningful" is also your definition.  In other 
words, we know it because we know it.
Peer review is less about getting work accepted than about evaluating whether 
or not the person(s) writing the article are following the scientific method 
in their approach.  Do they propose a testable hypothesis?  Is their work 
open to others who can test it or at least observe what they did (i.e., 
repeatability)?  Is the work up-to-date with current systematic hypotheses, 
and does it address these?   Can the hypothesis be falsified?  If there are 
statistical data, are these presented in such a way that others can repeat 
the tests?  As science is by definition a narrow discipline that seeks to 
pose answerable questions about the physical universe, have the author(s) of 
the article stepped beyond the bounds of scientific inquiry?  And so forth.
In essence, peer review is part of the publication process wherein other 
scientists evaluate the article for evidence that the author(s) followed the 
scientific method.  Scientifically meaningful articles have hypotheses, 
theories, etc., or statements that can be tested, falsified, and 
observed/tested repeatedly by other researchers.  Your scientific peers, 
scientists who are involved in similar research and understand its 
limitations, are usually the "best" people to review your submitted articles 
because they deal with similar "protocols."
When you submit an article to peer review, you are saying, "I might be wrong, 
have overlooked something, and I could use additional input.  What do you, my 
scientific peers, think?  Have I misled myself, etc.?"  This is ultimately 
the value of peer review, because none of us is unbiased.  If several people 
can look at your reported results, observations, etc., and draw similar 
conclusions, this strengthens your article and its contribution to the 
scientific process.
Therefore, peer review IS a great criterion for evaluating the scientific 
importance and/or value of the article.  This is why we trust the results of 
peer reviewed medical journal over the claims of someone on TV at 2:00am 
saying his/her clinical studies prove shark cartilage cures cancer and ends 
insomnia.  As usual, peer review, like any human endeavor, can be corrupted, 
but in general it is the best way we know to dull the influence of personal 
bias on reported research results.
Anyone care to peer review me? =)
Matt Bonnan