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For Critics of Intelligent Design, There's No Hiding Behind Claims of "Peer Review" Anymore


Darwinists have had to back off considerably from the once-confident assertion that peer review in science journals constitutes, as Jerry Coyne put it in 2005 in The New Republic, the "gold standard for modern scientific achievement." The whole institution of peer review is so besmirched now as to arouse, not even amusement anymore, but something more like pity.

In the same article, Coyne maintained that it was precisely by "By that standard" that advocates of the theory of intelligent design "have failed miserably." You mean by the standard of what is now revealed as the intellectual and scientific equivalent of insider trading? Or more like racketeering and simple fraud.

The existence of a blog like Retraction Watch is, in this respect, a sign of the times, a measure of the extent to which science publishing has fallen into derision. Their post from a couple of days ago, on a "peer review and citation ring at the Journal of Vibration and Control," has been widely reported, including the retraction of 60 papers from that journal. Sixty!

"This one deserves a 'wow,'" observes author Ivan Oransky. Indeed. The cat is really out of the bag.


It may not be entirely fair to liken a "peer review and citation ring" to the academic version of an extortion ring, but there's certainly fraud involved in both. Retraction Watch, a blog dedicated to chronicling which academic papers have been withdrawn, is reporting that SAGE Publishing, a group that puts out numerous peer-reviewed journals, is retracting 60 papers from its Journal of Vibration and Control after an internal investigation uncovered extensive evidence of severe peer-review fraud.

Apparently researcher Peter Chen, formerly of National Pingtung University of Education in Taiwan, made multiple submission and reviewer accounts -- possibly along with other researchers at his institution or elsewhere -- so that he could influence the peer review system. When Chen or someone else from the ring submitted a paper, the group could manipulate who reviewed the research, and on at least one occasion Chen served as his own reviewer.

The Washington Post:

Now comes word of a journal retracting 60 articles at once.

The reason for the mass retraction is mind-blowing: A "peer review and citation ring" was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.

You've heard of prostitution rings, gambling rings and extortion rings. Now there's a "peer review ring."

The publication is the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC). It publishes papers with names like "Hydraulic enginge mounts: a survey" and "Reduction of wheel force variations with magnetorheological devices."

The Guardian:

An academic journal has retracted dozens of articles and apologised to readers after falling victim to what it described as a "peer review ring" that appears to have involved more than 100 bogus scholars.

The Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC), a leading publication in the field of acoustics, said it was withdrawing 60 papers published in print and online over the past four years, after discovering that articles were being approved and cited by academics with "assumed and fabricated identities".

The journal's publisher, Sage, said in a statement that the ring appeared to centre around Peter Chen, a researcher formerly of National Pingtung University of Education, in Taiwan. Chen provided an "unsatisfactory response" when confronted, and has since resigned from his post.

Oh, it's just one unfortunate lapse, you say, not representative of anything much beyond itself? If you want to comfort yourself with that idea, first try following the reporting at Retraction Watch, which commonly posts two or three accounts of scholarly fraud and slipshod science per day.

With respect to what this means for the theory of ID, go back and read Casey Luskin's post, "Intelligent Design Is Peer-Reviewed, but Is Peer-Review a Requirement of Good Science?" Casey concludes:

Despite the attempted lockout, ID proponents have published their ideas in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This shows that ID has academic legitimacy whether or not one applies the dubious "peer-review" test of good science.

That's right. Going forward, if you want to argue against ID, you are going to have to actually argue against it, critically analyze its arguments and its evidence, as opponents of ID so commonly refuse to do. There's no hiding behind claims of "peer review" anymore.

I'm on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

Image credit: Ali Arsh/Flickr.