Opening up peer reviews


In a short interview with Patrick J. Michaels (Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute) an interesting idea came up that could go some way to improving the way science is discussed and understood in this country. His suggestion is that along with the article, the peer reviews of articles should be available to the public at large.

When studying MSc International Relations at LSE, I attended meetings with fellow students to review articles for the Millennium Journal of International Studies. This process made clear the central problem of leaving the review process behind closed doors, as much of the peer reviews would vary widely on their judgement of the original article. After much discussion, we voted on its fate. If it was to be published, all dissent was neatly swept under the carpet.

If, as Patrick J. Michaels argues, peer reviews were made available with each article, interested parties would be able to dig a little deeper and quicker behind the facts than they do at present. They could be published on the internet as it has proven to be ideally suited to questioning the veracity of scientific claims.

With peer reviews to draw upon, another source would be added with which to question shaky science (such as the many predictions around the field of global warming). The anonymity afforded by this process will also be a counterweight to the fear to speak out publicly against the establishment, whether for fear of damaged reputation, career or financial position.

Although such a move would be unlikely to stop many of  the scientific stories that grab the major media headlines, it would certainly be a welcome step towards greater openess and honesty. Of course, this step should be entirely at the discretion of each publisher, though if one moves, others will surely follow.