WELCOME MBA STUDENTS. IF YOU NEED A BREAK, IF YOU FEEL LIKE SCHOOL AND WORK ARE GETTING TO YOU, TAKE A WALK THROUGH MY BLOG. YOU WILL BE AMAZED, PLEASED AND SHOCKED. WELCOME.
Global warming update: In its 2007 report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that 40% of the Amazonian rain forest could be gone in a short time because of climate change. The source cited is not peer-reviewed. Its authors are a public policy analyst, that is, an advocate, and a journalist at the Guardian of London. Neither is a scientist. The main thing is that they did not even try to get their piece published in a real, scholarly, and therefore peer–reviewed journal.
Reliance on sources that are not peer-reviewed is forbidden by the UN Panel’s own rules. The fact that the IGPCC violated its own rules does not imply an evil intent but carelessness or zealots’ quasi religious enthusiasm. ( I keep telling you that climate change is a religion) I ask myself: How long would I continue to patronize a car mechanic who told this level of untruths?
The story was in the Telegraph, a UK left-wing newspaper, on January 25th. This came up after the 300+ mistake I talked about before about the time it will take for Himalayas glaciers to melt down. (It’s 300 years longer than announced by the Panel, according to the correction given by the Panel itself!)
You can find everything including linked to references in the
“ Watt’s Up With That” site, linked to this blog under “Climate change.”
In the English-speaking world, the one I know well, scholars make their careers by publishing in scholarly journals. Most scholars are also university professors but most university professors are not scholars.
In every discipline, such as Economics, or Physics, there are only two or three journals that matter a lot, and a multitude that matter a little or hardly at all. There is sometimes overlap between disciplines such as Sociology and Management ( my own disciplines). Scholars in one discipline frequently try to publish in journals of a different but related discipline.
All scholarly journals that matter are peer-reviewed. I think there is no exception. This is how peer review works. First the traffic directors of the process of peer review.
In my experience, journals’ chief editors are always well-known scholars who have themselves published uncommonly much in first-rate refereed journals. They may be controversial; their appointment may trigger unseemly rage but never because they are judged incompetent. Journal editors are normally not paid for their hard, time-consuming work but they often receive course relief and office space from their university. Editors get huge prestige and satisfaction from the job. There is much competition for the position of editor of any major scholarly journal. There is no formal way to achieve the position. (I got an offer once and I decided not to pursue it. Too much work for me.)
This is how editors of scholarly journals organize peer reviewing.
An individual or, more often, a team of scholars, works on a study and then, writes it up. In the disciplines I know, this process often takes three years. The final result is a 20 to 30-page paper.
Then, they choose a journal and they submit their paper for publication. Choosing a journal is difficult and delicate. The most prestigious journals may not be the best ones for the particular study depending on subject matter and originality of findings. Yet, publishing is a prestigious journal insures a readership and career advancement.
Upon receiving the submission, the editor give it a quick read. He rejects outright those submissions that are an obvious waste of time. That may be most submissions. For the remainder, he looks through his stable of reviewers for a few who might be competent to judge the particular submission. The reviewers are scholars who have themselves published in his journal. They know the standards and they are usually not eager to open the doors wide: A bad article in the journal in which I published mine six months ago makes mine look bad. Poor quality is contagious in the minds of readers. It’s like high-school: If I hang out with sluts, everyone will think I am a slut too.
The editor then sends the paper to two or, more often, three reviewers. The reviewers do not know the names of the authors of the paper they are reviewing. They are expected to excuse themselves if they recognize the authors or if there might be any potential conflict of interest. The reviewers don’t know each other either until after they have done their review. They are not told who their co-reviewers might be. This cuts down on the possibility of conspiracy for or against the paper they review.
The reviewers do not get paid for their work. They do it as a public service with the intent to act as gate-keepers. They are motivated to let what they think is important and believable get published. They are motivated to stop garbage and falsehoods, and even suspicious-looking findings.
The submitters, the paper’s authors, do not know who their reviewers are. They are never supposed to find out. This practice cuts down on any reviewer’s fear of retaliation. The reviewers are thus roughly “peers” of the submitters. The important point is that they are not superiors in some organizational hierarchy. They are all scholars with a doctorate playing the same game. It’s common for the submitters to be seniors to their reviewers.
This process, is known technically as “double-blind peer review.”
It’s “double” because the reviewers don’t know who the submitter is and he does not know who they are.
Reviewers are expected to critique everything about the paper, the quality of the study, the credibility of the findings, the technical worth of the methods used, the quality of the data. They are explicitly charged with paying attention to the rigorousness of the conclusions drawn from the results: “ We discovered that twenty cats out of a hundred are black, therefore, dogs are white,” would not pass muster. That’s climate science logic. I am sorry, that was a bitchy thing to say!
Reviewers even make comments on the quality of the writing. As a reviewer, I rejected several papers (submissions) outright because they were too difficult to read or because I suspected the authors were not clear in their own minds about what they were discussing.
In practice, it’s not rare for reviewers to specialize in one aspect of a paper. One will be a methods judge, another, a data person (that was me), another a logic expert. That’s one reason to have two or three reviewers rather than one. The other reason is an honest attempt to achieve fairness for the submitters.
There are more exotic specializations: For several years, several social science journals would send me papers to review that they suspected were written – in English – by French speakers. I did what needed to be done. No vacillation; no compassion!
After a delay that may be as long as three or even six months, the editor receives and studies the contributions of all the reviewers.
I surmise that often the several reviews agree substantially well. Personally, every time I have seen the critiques of co-reviewers, of people who had done what I had done in parallel, I was pleased. I never saw incompetent or silly critiques. When there is convergence, the editor has little trouble formulating a response to the authors. When there is no convergence between the reviewers, the editor calls on a fourth, and even on a fifth reviewer. It does so until a clear judgment emerges.
It happens almost never that the response is, “Done.” In my whole career, I sent back a submission I had reviewed to the editor only once saying, “This is very good. Publish it.” My co-reviewers did not agree.
In prestigious, first-rate journals, most submissions simply get rejected. The only good outcome that is likely is called, “Revise and resubmit.” The words speak for themselves. The editor is saying” If you can satisfy reviewer 1 on this point, and reviewer 2 on that point, and reviewer 3 on these other points, I will look at your re-submission with favor .” Again, that’s just about the best you can expect. This response implies no guarantee of future publication.
Remember that your career depends on the outcome. It’s common for five years to elapse between the beginning of a study and the publication of the paper. I begun a study in 1977 that was finally published in a good journal in 2000, after rejections from five good journals. I did stop working on it for about fifteen years though. Yes, that was an extreme case.
What I have just described (thank you for your patience), is a fiercely competitive gate-keeping system. It may be one of the most competitive systems this side of the Olympics. It’s hated by many academics for a variety of reasons, most bad, some good. One of the good reasons to hate it is that it keeps out many good contributions. Many innovative scholars become bitter because their good work is rejected for bad reasons. The system is also not immune to fads, academic fads that is, that you would not recognize as fads unless you were in the discipline. The system also throws a tarpaulin over forbidden areas of inquiry, especially in the social sciences. So, right now you cannot publish anything on the relationship between race and intelligence, no matter how good the research and the writing. That’s a fact, at least in the US. It might be slightly different in other English-speaking countries but my intuition says not.
Scholarly journals may sometimes be captured by activist or zealot minorities. It would take too long to go into this rare phenomenon. Ask me in a comment if you want to know more. Finally, practically all scholarly journals have a bias against what’s known as “negative findings.” It’s an interesting issue. Again, ask me in a comment if you want to know more.
The peer review system is mostly suppressive. In this respect, it works extraordinarily well. It rarely allows garbage to pass. It’s absolutely harsh on opinions in general. It’s pitiless toward opinions not supported by strong findings. In this respect, peer-reviewed journals are unlike any other source of information on the planet.
Here is another contribution to truth of double-blind peer-reviewed publication: Having an article published in one the prestigious journals is like asking for contradiction. If you present strong evidence that dogs chase cats because cats look to them like food, within a short time, there will be someone submitting research showing that dogs don’t chase cats, that when dogs chase cats, they do it because the cats provoked them, or that cats chase dogs. Editors like to publish replications of published studies. They especially like contradictory replications. The best career ladder for a young upstart researcher is to demonstrate that some older, well-established scholar (like me) is full of it. If you are dreadfully wrong in a double-blind peer-reviewed journal, chances are you are not going to be allowed to stay wrong for a long time.
Double-blind peer review is not perfect but I think it’s the best truth-seeking device we have for the moment. Everything else is inferior.
That’s why it matters whether any policy-making or policy-influencing body such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change relies on peer-reviewed studies or on someone’s agenda, religious belief, or pseudo-scientific nightmare.
Added Jan 2016:
Three of my recent books are available on Amazon Kindle and on some other reading devices. None is a scholarly book. Two are in English and one in French. The first is entitled: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography (2014).This one also exists in paperback. You can obtain the paperback from me through this clever email address: email@example.com. It’s listed under my name: Jacques Delacroix. My second book in English is only in electronic form. It’s entitled: Indecent Stories for Decent Women. (2015) It’s under the pen name: “Jean René Adolph.” Reflecting on its title will suggest why I am not using my real name in this one. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZYR9DS
I have a third book, written in French, that is completely different from the others: Les Pumas de grande banlieue: histoires d’émigration. (2014) This one is also only in electronic form. It’s under my real name: Jacques Delacroix. I pay attention to feedback. Thank you. I am open to sponsoring and commercial publication of any of the three.
How refershing to hear your lecture on “Peer Rewiew”. I am one of only a few in your audience that has a full and complete understanding of your subject matter.
I was taught the “Scientific Method” by Professor Sandy Haye in 1965 (PhD Geology). As you know the sceintific method has many many aspects. As simply as I can put it the, ” The end result of all research, study, testing, experimintation, observation, etc….. is to eventually develope a theory and then, yes and then “Publish”.
The number one rule in all of this is to never never “Paternalize” your own theory. If you get your feelings hurt by criticism from your peers, the argument in lost!!!
Students are not taught this today.
More for later discussion with you; Don’t ask Don’t Tell.
Assignment for you, look up on google UCMJ and pay close attention to Article 125. I had to inforce the UCMJ and it is not an adjunct to the Constitution. Also bone up on the theory of Unit Cohesion. The Armed Forces use it as a “Force Multiplier.
Note: This is a response to a comment regarding some things I said on my radio show; “Facts Matter” ksco 1080 AM, Sunday 11am to 1 pm.
Hi, Sarge. Good to hear from you. Two things. First, don’t be so sure about the scientific method. Radio audiences are amazing because they are completely self-selecting. The same guy would would not stay awake five minutes in science class when he was a snotty twenty year- old will listen with perfect attention to a radio lecture twenty years later.
Second on the issue on gays in the military. I don’t have a firm position. I do know what I know; I have good skeptical questions for you, and I dont’ get down into the dust and wrestle with experts. It’s almost never necessary. I tell experts: if you positions is so well-established, you should be able to answer these simple questions. I don’t need to go to the specialized texts and pretend to be an expert until the experts answer my difficult questions in a way that pose new questions for me. If you follow my show, you will find that that’s the way I deal with climate science issues. I don’t need a PhD in climate science to know when PhDs in climate science are unable to answer a simple question. For the same reason, I don’t need to study military regulations until I really need to. (By the way, they can be chnaged by an act of congress.) Here it goes:
First what I know: It’s clear to me that whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military is entirely a manpower issue. It’s not about fairness and it’s not about “rights.” ( I would like to serve in the military. They won’t let me because I am too old. It’s age discrimination!) The only questions is this: If they were allowed to serve openly, would we gain or lose more people of the requisite quality>. I don’t know the answer but the topic can be studied to obtain fairly objective answers. I want to see the studies. ON an anecdotal level, I remain struck with the two Arabic interpreters who were fired from the Defense Language Institute because they were gay. That impressed me as incredibly wasteful in the middle of the Iraq war.In that case, I think the policy may have caused the death of American military in combat.
Second, on the issue of combat preparedness, unit cohesion, etc. 1 I was under the impression that very few military personnel ever come close to combat. Is this more or less correct? If it is, open gays could be segregated the same way women are. If it’s not true, I stand corrected. 2 Isn’t it the case that the thousands of homosexuals you know now serve discreetly also endanger combat preparedness through the fact that others know that they exist? Is it not possible that they endanger combat-preparedness even more being clandestine than they would if they were readily identifiable?
Thinking exercise: If Congress changed the appropriate regulation, the President signed and gave an executive order to stop applying “don’t ask don’t tell” immediately, what do you think would happen in the armed forces. Whats’ your scenario?
PS In case you are wondering but are too polite to ask, I am not a homosexual and never have been. You might call me a virgin in this respect. (Of course, I can’t absolutely vouch about the future. I don’t know what might happen after the global warming cataclysms hits us, with minorities, children and women getting the worst of it as usual!)
This is my new reference for “peer review.” My students would have been much happier had they had it for last week’s assignment: Find a peer-reviewed, empirical article on a management practice they see at work. Note whether the practice is supported by the research or not.
Off to post this link to my syllabi.
Note: The person who sent the comment to which this is a response is a senior professor of Management in California.
Hi ,Terry. Flattery works well on me, as you know. I was wondering if it was OK to use my blog to continue teaching but in a completely unrestrained way. I guess I have your approval and it matters to me. Thanks.
I used the same essay on my radio show last Sunday. Radio is a tough way to teach anything because you never know who is taking a nap in the back of the room. (“Facts Matter” ksco Santa Cruz 1080 Am, Sunday 11am- 1pm.)
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Travis, a climate scientist at UC Berkeley, writes the following:
Travis, a modestly self-described “junior” climate scientists at U. of California at Berkeley with a flair for subtle flattery takes me to task for the throw-away lines about climate change in my essay otherwise dedicated to explaining scholarly reviewing. I am glad that Tracy gives me a chance to save him from a career shaped to any extent by religious fanaticism. I should have done long ago, what I do below about climate change. By the way, I use the masculine gender when referring to or addressing Tracy in deference to the fact that for 500 years, the masculine included the feminine in English. No insult is intended if Tracy happens to be a woman. Some men are OK, really!
There are thee parts to my response to Travis. (I am afraid I am giving Travis about 500% of the reply he expects.)
1 Climate changists propose or demand that we alter radically our current system of economic production. This current global system of production has saved almost every human being from the misery that used to be the rule for millenia.
2 The findings on which this change proposal is based lack the high level of credibility the dimensions of the changists’ proposal must entail.
3 Climate changism is a religious movement. Like Christianity before it, is able to incorporate rational and empirically based beliefs.
The fact is that our current0, global way of doing things has improved radically in a short time the lives of nearly everyone in the world. Our “current way of doing things” is roughly industrial, greatly energy-centered capitalism (not capitalist enough for me, but that’s another story). Nothing else has ever worked since the agricultural revolution of about 10,000 years ago. Climate change believers want us to transform our ways of doing things quickly in major ways that are sure to cause much misery, including among the poorest of the poor of this world.
How do I know? I was born in 1942. I was well aware of how poor the world was like even in the fifties, even the rich countries. (Please, read my memoirs: I Used to Be French….) Well into the seventies, there was widespread misery. (I was then a specialist in the sociology of economic development.) Climate alarmists simply want us to turn back the clock, I believe. They contemplate different rates, more or less thorough transformations, implemented in diverse ways, but I have not heard any of them come up with anything but turning back the clock that is even half-way reasonable. (And yes, I too like windmills.) The group’s general unreasonableness with respect to alternative forms of economic systems stands out when you begin to think of what its members do not (NOT) promote: The obvious, simplest, cheapest solution to the putative problem of excess emissions of CO2, one that does not undermine thoroughly our capacity to provide for the many, is nuclear energy (NUCLEAR). Hardly one of them ever mentions this simple fact. It’s not that they are too stupid to see the obvious. The problem is that those who see the obvious are too afraid of excommunication to open their mouths.(Yes, the use of a religious term here is deliberate.)
Climate changists thus demand something very grave, serious, absolutely dangerous. Therefore, their assertions must be held to a high standard. If they simply fought for internal combustion engines that would be 10% more efficient, for example, the standard could be lower. Let me repeat myself and say the same thing in a different way: If the climate changists’ worst predictions are correct then, the prospect of deliberately bringing misery to millions becomes ethically justified. This simple fact requires that we be demanding about determining the truth or falsity of the alarmists’ predictions.
Climate changists know full well that very few in the public are able to assess the quality of the climate scientists’ pronouncements under their own power. I am no exception. So, I use the normal, reasonable shortcuts: First I assess the processes that produced the pronouncements and then, I assess the honesty of the gate-keepers, of those who implement the processes. Simple enough, right?
Of course, I agree with Travis that a few contributions that are not peer-reviewed in the reports of IPCC do not invalidate the findings (FINDINGS) of many more studies that are peer-reviewed and that contribute to the same reports. But the kind of sickening falsehoods I cite force me to ask;:To what extent were those other statements proceeding from real peer-review? How many studies were peer-reviewed for real? How thoroughly? What percentage? Which? A real figure that 40% of the Amazon forest will disappear shortly if nothing is done sure would motivate even me to demand change now. An overestimate mistake of 300 years (in the climate changists’ favor, N.S.!) sure makes the possible/ maybe look like the real emergency changists’ hearts most fervent desire. The fact that those in charge of the report could make such gross, stinking mistakes as they did, leads me to suspect that the gate-keepers, are negligent, stupid, or simply moved by fanaticism.
What would Tracy have us do when confronted with failings of this magnitude? Does he really expect us to give the gate-keepers, the guard dogs, the benefit of the doubt after they let the fox into the hen-house? How long? How many times? Like my second girlfriend Marie, after they betray me, they have to work at regaining my trust. It’s now up to them to persuade me that they are not the sluts I suspect they are. Incidentally, the fact that Tracy blames the “federated” process by which IPCC gathers findings for the inclusion mistakes may be a valid explanation. It’s not an excuse. It’s rather an admission of carelessness, at best. And does Tracy know whether this federated process includes a safeguard to ensure that contrarian findings are not systematically excluded? And if he does not know, why? And will he try to find out from those better informed than he? And, if not, why? I only ask because my limited personal observation tells me there is a strong anti-contrarian bias even in good scholarly journals..
.Note, my last possible interpretation of the source of the gatekeepers’ misbehavior, that they were impelled by dishonesty instead of mere incompetence, could easily be nullified. One would merely have to point out in any IPCC report a few equally serious mistakes of inclusion that would undermine (UNDERMINE) the global warmist cause. Perhaps Travis has access to free grad student labor he could put to work on this proposal. I hope the results of such effort will appear on my blog soon. You can be completely sure that neither my blog nor NotesOnLiberty shelter an anti-contrarian bias.
The fact that IPCC, the most accessible voice for the climate change research, is affiliated with the UN does not help its credibility among skeptics, of course. That is, after all, an organization whose committee or commission on human rights included both Kadaffi’s Lybia and Assad ‘s Syria in the past five years. A long time ago, the UN even had a cannibal’s government represented. (Another story I will tell on request. And watch the spelling: I wrote “a cannibal’s,” and not “cannibals’ .”)
Global warmists who, claim scientific objectivity and who possess scientific credentials could improve their collective credibility if they would once in a while do the obvious in terms of engaging those not of their church. And I don’t mean adversaries like me. That’s too hard and they are mostly too dogmatic even to try it, I think. It’s easier to dismiss reasoning skeptics like me as cranks. I mean relevant voices that do their cause harm without opposing it. Two kinds come to mind. I describe those below.
1 Anyone who reads a little, or who watches television, or who listens to the radio frequently encounters statements of absurd pseudo-facts pronounced in the name of global warming. My current favorite I read in the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde. Recently it had a big an article to the effect that the sea level is rising faster – because of global warming – in the Central Pacific than in France, for example. This should thus lead to the following kind of statements: “Mount Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level in Hong Kong and in Le Havre but only 29,017 feet above sea level in the Tuamotu islands.” No one protested, no comment! Of course, it’s the stupid French. One could not find anything of the kind in the world’s English language press, right! I know climate changist scientists can’t be everywhere. I just think that if theirs were an intellectually honest enterprise, once in a while, one or two of them would feel obligated to smack on the heads some of the morons who contend to speak for them. I think it never happens (NEVER)! This last statement should be easy to contest, of course.
2 The prolific, statistically trained Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and of Cool It! keeps assuring everyone that he believes that there is man-made global warming that is worth worrying about. However, all of his policy proposals undermine and destroy the credibility of the mainstream changists’ own ideas about what to do next. It seems to me that writing-bulky Mr Lomborg is hard to miss in the general panorama of discourse on the subject. Yet., the main changist scientist church practically never address his view I believe they ignore him on purpose. Likewise, in medieval times, the Catholic Church pretended that rival Christian movements they could not suppress just did not exist.
Of course, some would object that the global warming movement includes many intelligent, cultured, rational people. Intelligent, cultured, rational medieval intellectuals never countenanced, for example, the burning to death of deviants who stubbornly insisted that during the Eucharist ritual, it is not really the real blood and flesh of Christ that appears on the altar. Or am I confused again? Were the intellectuals actually in charge of convicting and delivering heretics to the pyre?
Of course, climate changism is a religious movement. Specifically, it’s an offshoot of Christianity. It’s has a doctrine of the Fall (“Original Sin”) the main component of which is hubris ( as in eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge). It has an apocalyptic scenario. It developed a hierarchy of sins, very big ones, little ones. It advocates collective guilt, as with God’s decision to destroy the world with the Deluge. It is forever elaborating small and big dogmas many of which are too difficult for ordinary people to understand… “mysteries,” of course. Its priesthood is still ill-defined and struggling against itself, as happened in the first century of Christianity. The religious movement holds periodic councils to advance itself, to define doctrine and thus to reject divergent ideas, as the early Church did (in Rio, in Copenhagen; where was the recent one again?)
Those who think they are important members of the Climatechange church hierarchy do not hesitate to plot and to misrepresent the truth on behalf of the greater good (as show in the leaked emails- affair). They merely imitate in this connection what the Jesuit Order did for centuries with no qualms.The religious movement’s central weakness is that its most visible and audible prophet, Al Gore, is both downright grotesque and sinister, as often happens in new cults. Nevertheless, the true believers who know better, those who are technically and intellectually equipped to do so don’t find it in themselves to denounce his ridiculous exaggerations and his many big lies (let alone his small lies). Personally, I fear the day when rational climate changists do just this, when they actually denounce Al Gore for what he is: a rich but pathetic Daddy’s boy reared in a Washington DC luxury hotel who could not even carry his own state when he ran for president. And when ten climate “scientists” sign even a discrete manifesto denouncing Al Gore’s half of that Nobel Peace Prize as a farce, when that day arrives, it will become more difficult to denounce climate changism as an overgrown middle-class cult. As in the historical precedent I keep invoking, intellectually sophisticated priests are embarrassed by miracles but not quite embarrassed enough to oppose the movement’s reliance on them to gain adherents and financial contributions from the unwashed masses.
(In all of the above, about the religious nature of climate changism, I realize, I am probably plagiarizing others, smarter observers, people who described the obvious before me and whose names I forgot, I am afraid. I regret that I cannot give them proper credit.)
Thanks again, Tracy. I suspect you are personally not guilty of any atrocity, yet. Just watch your steps. Don’t believe everything. In fact, don’t believe anything. The majority is not always right; it’s usually wrong at first. The truth is never somewhere in the middle. And keep in mind that the European intellectual class as a whole, and many American intellectuals as well, actively helped murder millions in the Gulag between 1930 and 1955 in the name of the obvious and of the obviously necessary.
And what if I tun out to be completely wrong? Let someone ask that question.
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