I've suggested (& published in 21 journal papers) a new theory called quantised inertia (or MiHsC) that assumes that inertia is caused by horizons damping quantum fields. It predicts galaxy rotation & lab thrusts without any dark stuff or adjustment. My University webpage is here, I've written a book called Physics from the Edge and I'm on twitter as @memcculloch. Most of my content is at patreon now: here

Saturday 31 May 2014

Three cheers for peer review

James Lovelock has just written a short essay (see link below) complaining that peer review is a self-imposed inquisition which stifles freedom. I do not agree with this.

It is true that peer review is a hugely ego-bruising thing. For example, when Einstein was first subjected to it late in life he was so offended he withdrew his paper. However, one great thing about it is that editors generally ensure a scientific procedure is followed, so if you present an unconventional idea, but show that it agrees with the data, as I always try to do, then reviewers may doubt the idea, but given the agreement with the data, as scientists, they have to pass it. This does not always happen, I've had baseless rejections, but generally the scientific method is still around and doing good in the world. It provides an accountable scientific process that lets evidence-based ideas through. So I would argue that, recently, peer review has saved me and MiHsC from oblivion. It is unlikely to work as well for Lovelock's GAIA hypothesis because, although it is fascinating and I think likely to be true at least in part, it is less clearly supported by data.

In contrast to peer review, the preprint arxiv (which has been a great service to open publishing) has for some reason become more conservative in ways that are hidden and unaccountable. One example is that in 2012 the arxiv started to delay and then refuse my published papers for reasons that were not given. A process whereby decisions are made behind closed doors is not a scientific one and can easily be driven by dogma. This is why I support peer review. It is stern, but fair: the criteria are scientific (fact-based) and openly stated.

A very british analogy would be queuing in a shop. If there's a clear queue of people, then this is fair: the rules are clear, as for peer review. If people are just milling around then it's the dominant or loud people who get served first. The arxiv has chosen the latter model.


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