Bias in policing: Does science peer review even matter?

In an article on the question of bias in policing, from Slate:

In practice, though, “peer review” refers to a bewildering array of methods and procedures. At least 1 million peer-reviewed articles are published every year, in at least 25,000 journals. At the narrow, top tier of this ecosystem, where prestigious journals filter out all but the best and most important papers, peer review screens for breakthrough work with airtight methodology and well-founded conclusions. At the bulbous bottom, peer review is less discerning. It’s also amenable to all sorts of chicanery—like rings of scientists who rubber-stamp each other’s work or researchers who invent reviews.

The use of peer review varies from one publication to another and between different fields of research. In physics, scientists tend to post unpublished manuscripts to a common online archive, where anyone can read them and respond. Some of these go on to formal peer review and publication, but others don’t. In economics—Roland Fryer’s field—“working papers” often gestate in an early stage for quite a while before making their way into academic journals. And in other areas of research, such as legal scholarship, tradition holds that no one bothers with peer review at all. More.

One problem is that the controversial study is about racial bias in policing, which is just the sort of topic I wouldn’t bother recommending for science peer review at all.

I don’t doubt there is racial bias in policing. There is also sex and age bias. In the last decade, my mother, 91, and I, 66, have sometimes interacted with EMS, including police (not that we ourselves had done anything of note). The rule seems to be: Old ladies are sort of cute. No one expects us to be armed (we aren’t). We have opinions, which we are allowed to express, but our opinions don’t matter.

But these topics just do not strike me as science. More like intergroup conversations people need to have.

See also: Tough words from Nature: Peer review “unscientific”