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Johannes (Hans) Bakker

Peer review serves a useful function not only in the natural sciences but also in the social sciences and the humanities. But peer review is not perfect. There is type one error and there is type two error. Sometimes an excellent paper is rejected for the wrong reasons and sometimes a not so good paper is accepted for reasons that are hard to fathom. If there were no peer review there would not be a better way. Post publication review sometimes takes the form of comments of other scholars. It is not only true of articles in academic journals. Books published by university publishers are also often peer reviewed, and errors occur there, too, especially in books on "popular" subjects that seem to be going with the tide.

Robert A Gressis

The issue I worry about with regard to post-publication review is that it would reinforce groupthink.

Levy talks about how on Twitter hundreds of people pore over papers, but that seems to happen (correct me if I'm wrong) mainly when the paper challenges some established wisdom or sacred cows. Moreover, owing to the nature of Twitter, you can't be sure that the people who comment on a paper have actually read the paper, let alone read it with care. Moreover, because people's online comments are publicly available, you can get the impression that lots of people have independently come to the same conclusion about a paper when in fact all that has happened is that one or two people have come up with criticisms and everybody else assumes that they're right and simply repeat them.

Here's another facet of the groupthink worry. Imagine the following is true: the vast majority of papers, if they were scrutinized closely by lots of people who are deeply invested in their being false, would show themselves to at least have quite questionable assumptions. (Take, for example, every philosophy paper ever.) However, if you scrutinize only a few and leave the rest untouched, those few will appear to be unusually defective while the rest, owing perhaps to the contrast effect, will appear robust. Especially if the ones closely examined are closely examined because they challenge conventional academic wisdom, while the ones that aren't closely examined don't challenge conventional academic wisdom, you will leave with the impression that those who don't toe the line are simply worse scholars than the ones who do.

Nicolas Delon

The Psychological Science article has now been retracted:



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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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