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Gaming the Peer Review System : Part 1. Biased Editors

If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. … Sir Isaac Newton

 Peer review:  Every scientist’s work depends upon the evidence and reasoning of all the scientists who preceeded him. To ensure that previous work is reliable, scientific journals have established a peer review process to ensure that published papers are free of errors in reasoning and methodology. Normally,when a paper is submitted for publication, the editor of the journal removes the name of the author and sends the manuscript to a number of experts in the area for review. The editor keeps the names of the reviewers confidential. In case an error is found or corrections suggested, the reviews are returned to the author with suggestions for improvement. When the reviewer’s concerns are addressed to the editor’s satisfaction, the article is published. It is a good system for ensuring the quality of research publications, but in a few cases ways have been found to game the system.           

Biased Editors: The editors of journals published by major science organizations are chosen for their expertise in the area and for their fairness. However, any organization may publish a journal and claim their articles are peer-reviewed.  For example, a recent op Ed article in the Tulsa World claimed “Climate predictions must be science-backed“. That’s certainly true, but the author claimed his opinion was backed by a “a peer-reviewed article based on NOAA  data which proves that CO2 may not be the cause of global warming.”  However, no peer reviewed article reaching that conclusion could be found. When I contacted the author for his source, he referred me to an article by Ferenc Miskolczi published in Energy and Environment. Though Miskolczi’s article is based on NOAA’s data, it finds that adding CO2 to the atmosphere does not change its spectroscopic properties – a conclusion violating the laws of physics. Miskolczi’s article was criticized by van Dorland and Forster, who wrote: “Miskolczi (2010) theorizes that atmospheric CO2 increases cannot be a cause of global warming. We show his theory to be incorrect both in its application of radiation theory and from direct atmospheric observations.” How did such a paper get published?

The editor of a journal is almost completely responsible for seeing that articles are properly reviewed and for deciding if they should be published. Sourcewatch says that Energy and Environment is a peer-reviewed social science journal published by Multi-Science and the editor is Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, who is described as a reader in geography. Many climate change skeptics such as Sallie Baliunas, Patrick Michaels, Ross McKitrick, Stephen McIntyre, Roger Pielke Jr., Willie Soon, and  Steve McIntyre publish articles there that would not be accepted in major journals. Sourcewatch says the editor admits in an article published online that “the journal I edit has tried to keep this debate [climate scepticism] alive”. She also states “I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway … But isn’t that the right of the editor?”

Not really, if you want to claim to be a peer reviewed science journal.

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