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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. 

G Paul