A group of 30 scientists, including Nobel laureates, have written that “politicians” have hijacked the scientific peer review process and hurt innovation.
The scientists from around the world, including Britain and the U.S., write that “[a]gencies claiming to support blue-skies research use peer review, of course, discouraging open-ended inquiries and serious challenges to prevailing orthodoxies,” which impedes scientific progress.
Before the 1970s, according to the scientists, researchers could be sure to get “modest funding” to pursue questions that were not addressed by mainstream scientists or ran up against the consensus. Such freedom allowed scientists to discover “the transistor, the maser-laser, the electronics and telecommunications revolutions, nuclear power, biotechnology and medical diagnostics galore.”
“After 1970, politicians substantially expanded academic sectors,” write 30 scientists, including Nobel laureates Dudley Herschbach of Harvard University and Sir Richard Roberts of New England Biolabs.
“Peer review’s uses allowed the rise of priorities, impact etc, and is now virtually unavoidable. Applicants’ proposals must convince their peers that they serve national policies and are the best possible uses of resources,” the scientists continued in their letter to the editor in the UK Guardian newspaper. “Success rates are about 25%, and strict rules govern resubmissions. Rejected proposals are usually lost. Industry too has lost its taste for the unpredictable.”
Complaints that the scientific establishment is preventing dissenting voices from getting funding or published has been a major controversy among climate science. Dr. Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has argued that “global warming alarmism” has been damaged the integrity of science.
“Global climate alarmism has been costly to society, and it has the potential to be vastly more costly,” Lindzen wrote. “It has also been damaging to science, as scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions.”
“The scientific community is clearly becoming less ambiguous in separating views on warming from totally unreasonable fears for both the planet and mankind,” he added. “Environmental advocates are responding by making increasingly extreme claims. Politicians are recognizing that these claims are implausible, and are backing away from both the issue and support for climate science.”
“The incentive is then for scientists to look elsewhere for support,” Lindzen continued. “Regardless of whether this will be sufficient, one can only hope that some path will emerge that will end the present irrational obsession with climate and carbon footprints.”
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