Theodore Dalrymple on the increase in peer review fraud

Dalrymple is a former prison psychiatrist.

People demand a lot from science nowadays, but honesty doesn’t seem to make the list.

In science journals:

Because of super-specialization, the authors of papers themselves are nowadays often asked to suggest referees for peer review of their own work, but this, of course, leaves an opening for the practice of fraud. In a modern variant on Gogol’s Dead Souls, some scientists have been caught sending their papers for peer review to non-existent reviewers, complete with a curriculum vitae and an e-mail address. The article quotes the author of a blog on scientific research called “Retraction Watch,” who said “This is officially becoming a trend:” an odd way to put it, since either it is a trend or it isn’t, official recognition having nothing to do with it. There are even companies in China, apparently, that will help scientists to manufacture bogus peer reviews. A new twist would be for the rivals of those scientists to pay for bad reviews. Everything is possible in this crooked world of ours.

The pressure on academics to publish, irrespective of whether they have anything to say, either for the sake promotion or even of mere continuance in post, is the soil which allows this particular weed in the garden of human dishonesty to flourish. Two large publishers of scientific journals, Sage and Springer, have retracted more than 100 papers in the last year because of bogus peer review. Neither the article nor the commentary from readers on it mentions that a bogus peer review does not necessarily mean that the science is bogus too, though it stands to reason that it is likely to be. But what stands to reason may not be the case, and as far as I know, no one has looked into this question. More.

Dalrymple is a retired British psychiatrist and author.

People demand a lot from science nowadays, but honesty doesn’t seem to make the list.

See also: If peer review is working, why all the retractions?

and

Retraction Watch

Note: Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom (a no-tears look at the British underclass) is free online too.

Also posted at Uncommon Descent.

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  • “The pressure on academics to publish, irrespective of whether they have anything to say, either for the sake promotion or even of mere continuance in post, is the soil which allows this particular weed in the garden of human dishonesty to flourish.”
    All too often, academics have nothing to say, or what they say is utterly worthless.

    • UCSPanther

      It is a modern version of Lysenkoism, Stalin’s very official State doctrine of pseudoscience that attempted to turn science into propaganda during the famines that ensued from forced collectivization of farming. It was cooked up by a crank known as Trofim Lysenko, and officially ensconced in Soviet doctrine by the formal outlawing of dissent against it in 1948.

      This quote from wikipedia describes it:

      “The pseudo-scientific ideas of Lysenkoism were built on Lamarckan heritability of acquired characteristics. Lysenko’s theory rejected Mendelian inheritance, the concept of the “gene” and departed from Darwinian evolutionary theory by rejecting natural selection . Proponents falsely claimed to have discovered, among many other things, that rye could transform into wheat and wheat into barley, that weeds are spontaneously transmuting into food grains, and that ‘natural cooperation’ was observed in nature as opposed to ‘natural selection’. Lysenkism promised extraordinary advances in breeding and agriculture that never came about.”

      It lost credibility through the 1950s and died a quiet death in the 1960s. It set back Russian science for decades, and is perhaps far beyond any of the anti-scientific views that any religion has been accused of holding.

      • Yes, that is one famous example. But there are countless far less flamboyant examples every day in academe. The problem is the prevalence of incompetence, with incompetents certifying more incompetents because they themselves don’t know any better and were similarly certified without deserving it.

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  • Exile1981

    It’s become officially acceptable to fake studies and peer review. Look at global warming, all of academia faked data and reviews for the “greater good” ie progressive policies and political expediency. Now that cancer has spread to all of academia and they did it to themselves.