Peer review is no better than in-house reports — OFFICIAL!
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2010/05/14
When you’re in a hole, and you head the International Panel on Climate Change, dig yourself in deeper, and incidentally give continuing comfort to your critics, as well as to critics of other official international boondoggles (“IPCC’s Parchauri [sic] says climate body must ‘listen and learn’”, by Richard Black, 14 May 2010):
“He [Rajendra Pachauri, head of IPCC] . . . defended the principle of using non-peer-reviewed materials, such as the WWF report wherein the Himalayan error originated, which said the mountain range’s glaciers could disappear by 2035. ‘I’d like to highlight what non-peer-reviewed literature constitutes: reports from the International Energy Agency, the OECD, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and organisations of this nature. ‘There are some highly prestigious NGOs that are doing detailed academic work, and you cannot ignore this.’ But, he observed, people working on assessment had to follow scrupulously the procedures on when and how to use such material and occasionally, as with the Himalayan episode, human error had crept in. . . .
Although Friday’s contributions at the initial hearing here in Amsterdam all come from IPCC and UN personnel, Dr Robbert Dijkgraaf, co-chair of the InterAcademy Council, said the panel would be looking to draw on different shades of opinion over the next few months. . . .
Roger Piekle Jr, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado who has researched the likely costs of natural disasters, remains dissatisfied with the IPCC’s response, and maintains that the review must listen to critical voices if [it] is to be effective. . . .
’However, there are risks here as well, as a poorly conducted review could irreparably damage the institution.’ He also said the review should look at conflicts of interest within the IPCC.”
1. Alert observers of scientific activities will relish Dr. Pachauri’s concession that “occasionally” human error creeps into scientific matters. Who would have thought that? It’s almost as though scientists were human — when everyone knows, surely, that they are not fallible like politicians or journalists, say.
2. Supporters of Medical Hypotheses and of its editor, Dr. Bruce Charlton, will accept graciously this confirmation from on high that peer review is by no means the best avenue to getting the most worthwhile material disseminated.
3. People familiar with “reports from the International Energy Agency, the OECD, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and organisations of this nature” will be astonished that anyone would regard these biased, agenda-driven, in-house publications as in any way to be relied upon. After all, the organizations producing these reports share the practice of themselves disclaiming responsibility for the accuracy of what is in their reports, e.g.
“The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the author(s) and should not be attributed in any manner to the World Bank, to its affiliated organizations, or to members of its Board of Executive Directors or the countries they represent. The World Bank does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this publication and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use” (World Bank, Intensifying Action Against HIV/AIDS in Africa–Responding to a Development Crisis–AFRICA REGION–THE WORLD BANK, 1999); yet the authors of the report, which was issued by the World Bank, are employees of the World Bank and produced the report as part of their employment there.
“UNAIDS does not warrant that the information contained in this publication is complete and correct and shall not be liable for any damages incurred as a result of its use” (UNAIDS, Report on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic 2008; UNAIDS/08.25E / JC1510E).
4. AIDS Rethinkers will note that IPCC has the same approach to “reviewing” as does Elsevier: namely, make sure that all “reviewers” are people who are already in your camp and of your opinion.
5. Dr. Piekle’s warning that an honest, unbiased review carries risks is unnecessary. IPCC, Elsevier, and other such organizations are perfectly well aware of that. That’s why they avoid unbiased reviewing.
As to conflicts of interest, in their absence the IPCC, Elsevier, and their kin would be out of business.