Peer-review: A New Signature of Quack Science

Crackpot scientists are very efficient in taking a scientific idea and distorting it beyond recognition. A recent victim is the peer review process.

One of the trademarks of science is the strict requirement of accuracy in publishing results of investigation. Scientists screen other scientists’ work to make sure that it is legitimate and accurate before allowing it to be published in a professional journal. This process has come to be known as peer-review. The higher the standards of reviewing, the more respected the journal. Peer-review makes scientific journals different from popular — best selling — books and magazines, whose primary criterion for publication is to attract as many readers as possible.

Scientific peer-review not only blocks results of miscalculations or careless experiments, but  filters crackpot ideas, which are usually put forth by outsiders who think that they can undermine relativity without knowing much about it, or cosmology without understanding the technical details of the current theory.

For decades, pseudoscientists were content with publishing their nonsense in trade books — as opposed to textbooks where sample chapter are reviewed by peers, who recommend for or against publication — and, more recently, on blogs. As the content of the books and blogs came under the scrutiny of scientists and their inaccuracy and outright fallaciousness were exposed, pseudoscientists began to tailor the cosmetics of their discipline to the appearance of science. Peer-review process stood out as a necessary mascara!

With the immense popularity of pseudoscience among the illiterate public — which includes CEOs of publishing companies — and the primacy of profit making, some otherwise reputable publishers saw a financial opportunity for providing the outlet for the dissemination of pseudoscience peer-reviewed by pseudoscientists. The word “peer-reviewed” gives a (false) legitimacy to published articles and beguiles their readers into believing that their contents are as trustworthy as scientific articles. Now pseudoscientists are blaring the word “peer review” for every such article or journal so much so that it has now become a signature of pseudoscience:

If an author/publisher keeps insisting that their articles are “peer-reviewed,” chances are that the articles are quack science!

This is because you rarely hear the word in the scientific literature: real scientific articles are peer-reviewed by default! No advertisement is necessary.

To evaluate the rigor of a journal’s peer-review process, look at the qualification, background, and the institutional affiliation of the editors of the journal. Take Nuclear Physics B, a journal published by Elsevier, a leading scientific publisher. The website of the journal describes it as being devoted to the specific field of high energy physics (including theory, phenomenology, and experiments). Its editorial board consists of many notable physicists specialized in the specific fields of high energy physics. For example, under High Energy Physics-Theory you find three editors: L. Rastelli from Stony Brook University, S. Stieberger from Max Planck Institute for Physics, and H. Verlinde from Princeton University. The background of all these editors, their affiliation, and their list of publications are publicly available, and all of the editors are among top researchers and educators only in theoretical high energy physics — nothing else, not atomic, or quantum, or molecular physics and certainly not in “quantum dynamical psychology!”

6 thoughts on “Peer-review: A New Signature of Quack Science”

  1. Not everyone with a PhD and a research history is capable of adequately dealing with new findings when they clash with received wisdom. For example, I work to find mathematically simple patterns present in the sequencing of orbital partials in shells of atomic nuclei. For spheres, the math turns out to come directly from Pascal Triangle combinatorics (though values are all doubled due to spin-pairing of nucleons). The math is exact- no crazy equations with strange terms, and always gives known results. Yet reactions to these findings often resemble political or religious attacks. All quantum physics is based on simple mathematics, but it seems that modern workers have given up on this notion, which might explain their fondness for esoteric forms, such as perturbational formulations.

  2. Excellent article, although one must consider when science is falsely labeled as pseudoscience and that true peer review of the scientific method takes place when experiment and theory is put to the test by attempts at replication. If one is blocked at the journal/publishing level this scientific process is stymied.

    Today’s scientists no longer face the hurdle of a publisher’s peer review to get work printed. If you have fallen into an unknown realm who is your peer? Obviously only those who you find there with you. The Internet allowed the peers of cold fusion research to publish, which is the first step in involving the larger community in your scientific endeavor. Only after publishing can true scientific review begin, attempts at replication.

    LENR the Debutante at the Ball

    The Skepticism required by the Scientific Method is meant to apply to all models, those proposed and those both offered and accepted in the past; and, especially, of our very own. This last ensures better offered models.

    There are about 35 models contributing to comprehending nuclear behaviour. That they are all variously successful indicates that threshing for commonalities is paramount. It also allows that we just don’t know it all.

    LENR Conversation between a Researcher, Chemist, Astronomer, Quantum Theorist, Student, and a Layman

    1. Deepak Chopra believes that his “science” is falsely labeled as pseudoscience. In fact, all pseudoscientists believe that their “science” is falsely labeled as pseudoscience, just as Hitler believed that his regime was falsely labeled as dictatorship.

      If the mainstream scientists persistently — I’m not talking about their initial resistance to ideas that have not yet been verified experimentally — do not accept an idea, it is not science. Read the article at
      to see what is science and what is not.

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