Peer review: Putting politics before science on ultimate PC issue, climate change…
|June 21, 2012||Posted by News under Climate change, News, Peer review|
… and then wondering why people don’t take the science seriously.
In “Climate panel adopts controversial ‘grey’ evidence” (New Scientist, 19 June 2012), Fred Pearce reports,
Climate scientists are likely to face charges of putting politics before science, following two controversial decisions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this month.
The IPCC decided for the first time to impose strict geographical quotas on the scientists who author its major assessment reports. There will also be a push to increase the representation of women among its authors.
Controversially, it also voted to increase the role in those assessments of “grey literature”: publications not subject to peer review. Using such material in the last assessment is what led to the “glaciergate” scandal in 2010, when the report was found to have vastly overestimated the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are losing ice.
Pearce writes as one who sort of recognizes the problem but can’t quite say it: The imposition of politically correct quotas for authors’ gender and origins, as he describes it, does put politics before science. That’s a matter of fact, not interpretation.
Of course, one could write (and some have written) books on what’s wrong with peer review. But in a world where many already doubt what they’re reading on climate change (cf. memogate), just tossing it out could be fatal to credibility.
Thought experiment: What if it was cancer research? We anxiously await treatments that work. And we are told that, hallelujah!, the big achievement is that more of the papers are written by women and/or people from less well represented parts of the world (and not subject to peer review). What would we think had been achieved in cancer science, as opposed to cancer politics? And, one must then ask, how much of what they are doing is science anyway?
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