Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Meyer Fiasco, I

In last Wednesday's post I reported on the publication of this pro-ID article by Stephen Meyer. It appeared in the journal The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. As reported in this lengthy critique from the Panda's Thumb, the scientific arguments in the paper were so bad that it was a mystery how it ever survived peer-review.

There have been some developments in that regard.

First, The Scientist has weighed in with this article on the subject.

The article sheds some light on the mystery of the peer-review process used for the article:

Richard Sternberg, a staff scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information who was an editor of the Proceedings at the time, told The Scientist via E-mail that the three peer reviewers of the paper “all hold faculty positions in biological disciplines at prominent universities and research institutions, one at an Ivy League university, one at a major US public university, and another at a major overseas research institute.”

“The reviewers did not necessarily agree with Dr. Meyer's arguments but all found the paper meritorious, warranting publication,” Sternberg said.

It seems a bit odd that a small journal like PBSW would send a paper out to three different reviewers. Most journals have a paper referreed by one, maybe two reviewers. Occasionally a third will be called in to break a tie between the previous two. Here the description of the reviewers sounds suspiciously stellar. I'd like to know more about who these reviewers were.

On the other hand, it is possible that Sternberg sent it to three referrees precisely because the subject matter was so controversial. I find that unlikely, but I won't dismiss it out of hand. It would be unusual, though not unheard of, to reveal the identity of the referree's. On the other hand, surely the referree's reports could be released.


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