I first became aware of the importance that many non-elite scientists place on “peerreviewed” or “refereed” journals when Howard Van Till, a theistic evolutionist, said my book The Physics of Immortality was not worth taking seriously because the ideas it presented had never appeared in refereed journals. Actually, the ideas in that book had already appeared in refereed journals. The papers and the refereed journals wherein they appeared were listed at the beginning of my book. My key predictions of the top quark mass (confirmed) and the Higgs boson mass (still unknown) even appeared in the pages of Nature, the most prestigious refereed science journal in the world. But suppose Van Till had been correct and that my ideas had never been published in referred journals. Would he have been correct in saying that, in this case, the ideas need not be taken seriously?
To answer this question, we first need to understand what the “peer review” process is. That is, we need to understand how the process operates in theory, how it operates in practice, what it is intended to accomplish, and what it actually does accomplish in practice. Also of importance is its history. The notion that a scientific idea cannot be considered intellectually respectable until it has first appeared in a “peer” reviewed journal did not become widespread until after World War II. Copernicus’s heliocentric system, Galileo’s mechanics, Newton’s grand synthesis—these ideas never appeared first in journal articles. They appeared first in books, reviewed prior to publication only by the authors or by the authors’ friends. Even Darwin never submitted his idea of evolution driven by natural selection to a journal to be judged by “impartial” referees. Darwinism indeed first appeared in a journal, but one under the control of Darwin’s friends. And Darwin’s article was completely ignored. Instead, Darwin made his ideas known to his peers and to the world at large through a popular book: On the Origin of Species.
I shall argue that prior to the Second World War the refereeing process, even where it existed, had very little effect on the publication of novel ideas, at least in the field of physics. But in the last several decades, many outstanding scientists have complained that their best ideas—the very ideas that brought them fame—were rejected by the refereed journals. Thus, prior to the Second World War, the refereeing process worked primarily to eliminate crackpot papers. Today, the refereeing process works primarily to enforce orthodoxy. I shall offer evidence that “peer” review is not peer review: the referee is quite often not as intellectually able as the author whose work he judges. We have pygmies standing in judgment on giants. I shall offer suggestions on ways to correct this problem, which, if continued, may seriously impede, if not stop, the advance of science.
From: Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?
by Frank J. Tipler
This is an introduction from an article written by a professor of mathematical physics at Tulane University. It’s an interesting take at the issues surrounding publishing any academic work in respected journals. His focus is on science, but it certainly is no big leap seeing that it applies to any field. A big caveat is that the article appears to be preparing the argument for the inclusion of papers that mix religion and science in the publication in scientific journals, which in my opinion should be kept separate. However, some of the points he makes are relevant. The increasing demand for papers by universities, while pushing science forward, may not be pushing it in the proper manner. It forces scientists more often than not to sacrifice the scientific integrity of their work for the sole purpose of getting a paper through, thus supporting themselves financially. It truly does stifle scientific progress when innovative papers that follow the scientific method and can lead to new discoveries are delayed.
I think that with the internet, we should be able to rework the way papers are published. Publishing and distribution should be and can be made. The onus is then on the scientist to create quality paper which have obvious merit. Then it becomes a question of how to compensate a scientist properly for quality work.