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Peer review is a time honored system whereby fellow scientists test each other’s data to insure they are both credible and reproducible. It is the gold standard upon which all scientific works should be based. It makes sense because it works very well as long as independent laboratories are involved in the pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake and in doing so, rooting out bad or fabricated results. Hopefully, one perk of such vetted knowledge would be an application to real world agendas relating to medicine, agriculture, environmental sustainability, peaceful technology, living spaces, transportation, energy sources, and other areas.
However, this definition of peer review is quite idealistic. It is something for which we should all strive but which in reality sometimes gets stifled, perverted, and even used to promote outright fabrications that support one particular agenda or another. You see this on Facebook everyday, it’s called fake news. Other related terms are: lying with statistics, intimidating verbiage to foster a sense of expertise that cannot be questioned, outright bullying, and obfuscation. Sadly, this is not even the worst of it. Sometimes, groups go so far as to initiate outright censorship. My work described in this blog is a case in point.
Now, you may say that my work is not being censored because you are reading about it here on this blog. That’s true for now, but try reading about it anywhere else on the internet, especially in peer-reviewed journals. This work is over 25 years old! If you are lucky enough to find anything about it at all, it will probably be dismissive in nature. This lack of credibility is not the result of peer review but the complete absence of it! Please take some time to think about this very important distinction. One cannot adequately evaluate that which one refuses to evaluate, i.e. a Catch 22. Now the next question is fairly obvious: Why would scientists refuse to evaluate data? Why indeed! I can only speculate, so I will submit two hypotheses:
1) Intellectual fatigue generates single mindedness and finally tunnel vision. Most academic scientists have to fight tooth and nail for every government dollar they get. They get tired of this nonsense, like anyone else. This will only get worse over time, and the temptation to cross over to the “dark side” of corporate interests and monied agendas will continue to grow as government dollars become more and more scarce. These scientists are usually overworked, understaffed, short on time, and under extreme pressure to get “safe” papers published. New discoveries may seem interesting to them, but they rationalize that someone else can do this work. In other words, a pocket veto occurs. They may do a cursory review of the literature to justify their lack of further interest and finding nothing, the matter ends, and so it goes around and around.
2) Dogmatic territoriality, a condition in which entrenched dogma becomes protected by those with a personal investment in its survival. Rigid filters are applied to incoming data to sort out any results that threaten the status quo. In this way, more and more papers pile up, reinforcing the notion that true peer review has been achieved based solely upon the plethora of trees that have been cut down in order to justify it. Or as they say in politics, if you repeat a lie often enough, people start to believe it.
I am quite confident that other scientists have shared this same fate as will others in the future. The most insidious effect of all this is self-censorship to avoid “rocking the boat” in order to sustain credentials and continued employment. Perhaps a better term would be pre-peer review, a process by which data is ignored or discredited based upon opinions, “gut” feelings, rigid agendas, or because such data would expose criminal fraud. Let me put it another way: To get to the truth, you must follow the data. If this cannot be done because of censorship, then it’s time to follow the money.