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More peer review
Some of the reactions to my post on peer review have been interesting in that
they present extremes as alternatives, which are strawman arguments. Although
there will always be serious problems with PR I never suggested abolishing
it. It will remain the means of vetting papers for most publications,
although it is possible that electronic publication will reduce PR.
What is necessary is for the widespread overobsession with PR to be
abandoned. The basic scientific process has never been dependent upon PR, it
is just a practical solution for editors to handle manuscripts. Vast amounts
of junk gets published under PR. Likewise, phylogenetics is by no means
entirely dependent upon cladistics which has its own limitations. But
cladistics should not be abandoned, it should just be put in its proper place
as one means to do phylogenetics.
The answer to the problem is simply that nonreviewed works should be
considered part of the normal process. To a certain extent this is already
true. People cite my nonreviewed works from 84 and 88 on flight loss in
dinosaurs and other issues all the time, PDW being in Science and Nature
biblios on a regular basis. Stephen Wolfram self published his book A New
Kind of Science which has received widespread attention, and been book
reviewed with varying degrees of approval and disapproval in all the main
science journals. There should be some loosening up off the system rather
than tightening up. Will some junk be published? Yes, but not necessarily
more than already is - a problem with PR is that it makes acceptance of bad
science easier since it seems to have gone through the proper process.
There is no simple or utopian solution. Science is a chronically messy
process since humans do it. The key point is to judge a work by its contents
rather than the process it went through. That requires work which is way some
prefer to rely on PR. Venues for publication via both PR and nonPR should be
offered to researchers and given serious attention.