The Science Police
On highly charged issues, such as climate change and endangered species, peer review literature and public discourse are aggressively patrolled by self-appointed sheriffs in the scientific community.
A profoundly important article that describes how peer review is really done. In most fields it is not important enough to have cables denying funding because of what the public might misperceive. Still, the science police exist. People inclined to be science police tend to gravitate to positions of power such as grants committees and senior academic administrative chairs.
I wish I had a nickel for every time we wrote a grant on our waves and got back an answer that basically said, “It’s an interesting result but it goes against the prevailing wisdom and so we won’t fund you to test it”
Our system of peer review is made up of deeply sincere individuals who are so convinced they are right and others are wrong that research progress is slowed and huge amounts of money are wasted,
I once had a fellowship application for a grant turned down with the following:
“You have written an excellent application, clearly showing your methodology and goals. Your references, publication record and previous accomplishments prove you are well qualified to do this research and you have a high probability of success. The project itself is completely novel and potentially ground breaking. However because you have never published about this topic in a reputable high impact journal we cannot fund you.”
My husband has the same committee tell him in one year he was brilliant and if the work held up it was likely time for another nobel prize in embryology. In the following year the same committee rejected him saying it is a wonder he ever graduated from high school. The only thing that changed was who the chair of the committee was.
This article is long but it very clearly illustrates a phenomena first described to me by writer and naturalist Jack Rudloe (though he says he heard it from someone else.)
“You can always tell an academic by the number of knives in his or her back.”