Some excerpts from:

Peer review called curb to creativity
By David L. Chandler, Globe Staff


Sociologist Michael J. Mahoney of Pennsylvania State University was one of the first to examine how well the [peer review] process works in evaluating scientific papers. In a landmark study, he sent copies of one paper to 75 reviewers but doctored the results so that in some cases the research appeared to support mainstream theories, while in others it ran against them.

"When the results ran contrary to the reviewer's theoretical beliefs," Mahoney reported, "the procedures were berated and the manuscript was rejected. When the results 'confirmed' the reviewers beliefs, the same procedures were lauded and the manuscript was recommended for publication."

Mahoney's findings struck a nerve. Within three months after he presented his results last year at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he said, he "received probably 200 to 300 letters and phone calls from scientists who felt they had been victims of that kind of discrimination."

Daniel Koshland, editor of Science, the nation's leading scientific journal, strongly defended the peer review process but added, "I think it's fair to say that a new idea, something that confronts existing dogma, has an uphill road - but not an impossible road."

Koshland cited as an example bichochemist Edwin G. Krebs' initial work on the "Krebs cycle," a fundamental series of enzyme reactions in living organisms, "which got him the Nobel Prize later. It was initially rejected. And you can find other examples like that. There certainly is no question that there is a prejudice in favor of the existing dogma"

In 1970, biologist Margulis was not only denied funding but subjected to intense scorn by reviewers at the [National Science] Foundation. The theory for which she was denied funding then - that cells evolved through a symbiotic union of primitive organisms - has now become accepted dogma, cited as fact in recent textbooks.

"I was flatly turned down," Margulis said, and the grants officers added "that I should never apply again."

Quotes from Dr. Thomas Gold:

"It's like religion. Heresy (in science) is thought of as a bad thing, whereas it should be just the opposite."

"If you don't want anything new, don't do science. Sell antiques or something."
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