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Cherry Partial

February 13, 2010

Cordiality aside, one of the central concerns of peer review is that any given expert peer is likely to have a stance on whatever given topic is facing scrutiny. Why might that be? Well, because expert peers tend to be experts in their areas; and experts in their areas, over the course of becoming experts, tend to form reasoned positions based on their expertise.

Believe it or not, I’m an expert, and you’d better believe that I have views. Roger’s also an expert, and as many know, he too has views. Max and Tom are experts as well. Do they have views? You bet your sweet bippy.

In betting your sweet bippy, you might also throw a few more clams down on the wager that we experts are sometimes asked to sit on panels of experts. (Well, I’m not ever asked to sit on panels of experts, but that’s because very little hangs on my area of expertise. I’ll take “turpitude” for 500, Alex.)

In some cases, these panels are supposed to be impartial, but at they same time rely on significant expertise. Which brings us to the CRU hack.

Turns out, there’s this guy, Philip Campbell, who is the editor of Nature. By many accounts Nature is a pretty spankin’ good journal, and so, by extension, Campbell is a pretty spankin’ good expert. One problem: he’s supposedly not impartial. Why? Because he has views. Here, read the gory details for yourself.

Yeah, so, long story short, he resigned and the supposed independent panel of six that was theretofore investigating climategate is now a piddling independent panel of five. Not enough for a hockey team, but still one too many for a game of Parcheesi. The indignity!

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2 comments

  1. I agree that experts are not impartial.

    In fact, I think that nobody is impartial.

    Given that, I would rather see a mix of people on panel – different backgrounds, climate, physics, math, statistics, some AGW, some skeptical.


  2. A journal editor is an appropriate person to serve on this panel, but I would suggest that the journal should not be one in which papers by the scientists who are subjects of the inquiry have published, or even one that publishes climate science papers at all. Nature is ruled out on both counts and not because of the editor’s ‘views’. I am amazed that this editor was ever selected by the panel, given that some of the papers at the centre of the controversy were published in Nature.

    I suggest that the editor of, say, a medical journal or one on epidemiology could be chosen who would understand the issues of large data sets, data archiving, accessibility and so on, and would be able to assess the issues of peer review and interactions with journal editors that are being investigated.



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