If authors are no longer required to justify their fundamental assumptions, where does that leave referees, asks Martyn Hammersley
Peer review is essential to the operation of research communities. But what are the conditions that must be met for it to operate? One is surely that there must be some minimum level of agreement about the task of research and how it should be pursued.
In the operation of peer review, we are seeing the fundamental and strident differences between social median methodologies. Because the objective of peer is to select and refine the best argument, but the methodological contention is about one philosophy over another. This Times Higher Education piece looks through the issues and the implications they have for the integrity of science.
Involved here are clashes between fundamental commitments, resulting in the “paradigm wars” whose future Nate Gage famously predicted back in 1989. Is peer review compatible with these conflicts? Let me illustrate the problem.
Recently, in reviewing a paper for a journal, I faced a dilemma. The paper made some interesting points, but my view was that it relied on a range of doubtful empirical, theoretical and political assumptions that led to tendentious interpretations of rather thin data. The authors implied that any questioning of these assumptions amounted to an attack on their intellectual and social identities. But I felt that since many readers would not share them, explicit justification ought to be provided.