September 14, 2011

Peer-Review and the Corruption of Science

The peer-review system has not only become corrupted in allowing substandard content into the academic market. It has also been turned into a gate-keeping system for imposing ideological conformity. This speaks not only for science, but for all academic subjects that encourage and insist peer-review status in scholarship, including theology.

The Guardian features an interesting opinion column by the renowned British pharmacologist David Colquhoun. The article bears the intriguing headline, "Publish-or-Perish: Peer Review and the Corruption of Science." The author laments that "Pressure on scientists to publish has led to a situation where any paper, however bad, can now be printed in a journal that claims to be peer-reviewed."

Colquhoun explains,

"The blame for this sad situation lies with the people who have imposed a publish-or-perish culture, namely research funders and senior people in universities. To have "written" 800 papers is regarded as something to boast about rather than being rather shameful. University PR departments encourage exaggerated claims, and hard-pressed authors go along with them."

The author proceeds to list a few examples of the failure of the peer-review system to ensure robust and accurate journal content. He argues that part of the reason for the lapse in academic publication standards is the pressure on academics to publish many papers. If a scientist publishes frequently, that should actually call into question, rather than enhance, his credibility as a diligent and focused researcher.

Read the piece in The Guardian here.

Read more here and here.