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Author Topic: Are science books peer reviewed?  (Read 4198 times)

Offline SuperPrincipia

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Are science books peer reviewed?
« on: 25/10/2010 08:04:51 »
This is a question for all physicist that live in the modern Internet Age.

I was having discussion with a couple of friends that study physics, and we began to talk about a book written by a specific scientist. The title of the book and the scientist is irrelevent. And during the discussion, one of my friends stated that the book, or some of the infomation is the book was not peer reviewed!

And my statement to my friend, is that you are the peer; did you review the book, you are the peer reviewer.

This person was stating that if it was not published in a popular journal it was not peer reviewed; although they read the book, and consider themselves to be a knowledgeable physicist. My take on this subject, is that in an age when there was no internet and information was not freely flowing; all things prior to 1995. Then there would be a need to publish in a journal, because there would be no way to determine if that information was read by anyone.

But now since there is Amazon.com; anyone can buy a book from an author that did not send his work into a journal for "peer review" and they can write their own review. And if this is followed by others that publish their own review at Amazon.com. If this happens a couple or many times, then in essence this work has just been "Peer Reviewed."

Why in today's modern information age that someone would wait for other people, such as journal with their own hidden agendas, and their own bias, to decide it their work is credible is totally beyond me? If you have somewhat of an understanding of the subject, you are the peer, and you provide your review. This is a peer review.

I think that the "Self Publishing" field is the greatest thing since slice bread, because this represents what a true free thinking and capitalist society truly promotes. To wait for three or four people in a "Journal" to accept or reject your work, is to me what describes a sense of insecurity; and demonstrates that one is stuck in an old world passing by!

This is why new journals are emerging that allow you to post your work in their database, for others to view for free. The owners of those journals have figured out what I am describing. If you are a peer and you review the work. The work has just been "Peer Reviewed!"
« Last Edit: 25/10/2010 18:22:59 by chris »


 

Offline imatfaal

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #1 on: 25/10/2010 12:26:17 »
But the peers in a peer-reviewed article don't just read a book and say "yes I like it" or "no I dont"; they are a vital part of the process.

Science and in fact the quest for all knowledge is a collaborative process.  When I have a good idea, I take it to my colleagues and discuss it (this is the first chance for an outsider to notice the flaws), I will then chat to my supervisor about it (my professor has done this for many people for many years and is quick to spot the logical fallacy etc), I could then actually draw up a more formal description and again run it past colleagues and supervisor (this tends to remove the more subtle errors - or show that these subtle errors send it back to drawing board).

 once i have a piece of work that is getting to be complete  (after many iterations of rinse and repeat) I want and need someone who knows the subject better/as well/nearly as well to read the paper.  I can no longer really ask my supervisor and colleagues as they are intimately bound up with the paper and with me - at the same time the publication that I would like to broadcast my paper also want to know it has been checked.  At this final stage the independent (to a certain extent) reviewers will check your methods, logic, calculations, axioms, presumptions, and conclusions.  I know that when I read a paper in Modern Law Review, in Nature, BMJ etc that these steps have been taken.  Self-publishing lacks these checks and hurdles. 

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And my statement to my friend, is that you are the peer; did you review the book, you are the peer reviewer.

No - I am the student, the learner, the seeker for knowledge; and because most of us need someone to lead us we must be able to rely on certain things.  In my research (abstruse legal questions) it is imperative that I can assume that no gross errors exist, no cases referred to in articles have been correctly interpreted and relayed to the reader, that no more recent precedent exists, that the contexts of any quotations hasn't been mis-portrayed; it is beyond my capability and/or time-constraints to check all these things for every article.   

Peer-review might slow the process down and is utterly reliant on the quality of the referees and impartiality of the editor.  If badly organised or run with an outside agenda then it is/would be dreadful - but as a process it works.  It cannot be replaced by mere ease of provision of information - the internet and self-publication are already threatening to drown us in data and opinion.  The reputable peer-reviewed article is vital for progress in academic research and learning.
« Last Edit: 25/10/2010 12:34:37 by imatfaal »
 

Offline SuperPrincipia

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #2 on: 25/10/2010 13:25:43 »
But the peers in a peer-reviewed article don't just read a book and say "yes I like it" or "no I dont"; they are a vital part of the process.

In my humble opinion a typical technical review via the original post is much more than a review that states "I like it" or "I don't like it." We all know that is not a review. However, at the same time philosophically a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" is also a review.

Self-publishing lacks these checks and hurdles.

Just because someone self publishes, does not mean that before the work was officially published or released to the public that they did not go through the process that you state.
(after many iterations of rinse and repeat) I want and need someone who knows the subject better/as well/nearly as well to read the paper.  I can no longer really ask my supervisor and colleagues as they are intimately bound up with the paper and with me - at the same time the publication that I would like to broadcast my paper also want to know it has been checked.  At this final stage the independent (to a certain extent) reviewers will check your methods, logic, calculations, axioms, presumptions, and conclusions.

A good self published work would have gone through this process that you state. I have purchased a brand new house before, and after moving in needed to have the builder bring back the plumber to fix the plumbing. And years later purchased another new house that had no flaws whatsoever.

I know that when I read a paper in Modern Law Review, in Nature, BMJ etc that these steps have been taken.  Self-publishing lacks these checks and hurdles.

This is true we are to assume that when a journal publishes a work they went through those steps. But to assume that a self published work did not go through those same hurdles is a false assumption. My point for a peer review, is that if you can read an understand the work, you are the "Peer Reviewer" you do not need someone else to tell you whether the work is good or not!

No - I am the student, the learner, the seeker for knowledge; and because most of us need someone to lead us we must be able to rely on certain things.
If this is the case then you are not a peer and you should not be a reviewer of that work; until you attain the knowledge to review. My point is that if you can read the material and understand the work, you are the peer and the reviewer.

Peer-review might slow the process down and is utterly reliant on the quality of the referees and impartiality of the editor.
These reviewers that are working for these journals are not "Peer Review Gods from Heaven" I have met plenty of them, most are PhDs and they have just as much knowledge as the well read and studied independent researcher.

It cannot be replaced by mere ease of provision of information - the internet and self-publication are already threatening to drown us in data and opinion.  The reputable peer-reviewed article is vital for progress in academic research and learning.

My point is that this is taking place with the invention of the internet and free flowing communication, and working itself out whether you like it or not!
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #3 on: 25/10/2010 14:14:44 »
The problem is that there is a lot of rubbish on the internet. How does someone who wishes to learn about a particular subject select the stuff that is correct from that which is fanciful and plain wrong? It is great that there is a medium for anyone to say what they like, but this is not an ideal medium from which to learn when there is no indication of the validity of the ideas posed. It is also the case that it is sometimes hard to find pertinent data on the web now because you often have to trawl for hours.

This is why peer reviews are a sensible way to have someone else, in whose opinion you trust, vet the work. It does not follow that all peer reviews are effective as there is plenty of peer reviewed rubbish too, but generally it is a good method.
 

Offline SuperPrincipia

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #4 on: 25/10/2010 14:23:21 »
The problem is that there is a lot of rubbish on the internet. ....It is also the case that it is sometimes hard to find pertinent data on the web now because you often have to trawl for hours.

This is why peer reviews are a sensible way to have someone else, in whose opinion you trust, vet the work. It does not follow that all peer reviews are effective as there is plenty of peer reviewed rubbish too, but generally it is a good method.

Graham.d, I agree with this. I am not against the traditional "Peer Review" process via journals; they are just not to be declared "Peer Review Gods" proclaiming truth. You proclaim truth if you understand the work. So neither does it "Self Publishing" invalidate a work!
 

Offline JP

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #5 on: 25/10/2010 15:31:47 »
Peer review does have some flaws, but it's overall a good system for the reasons Matthew and Graham stated.  If you want an example of a place that doesn't have peer review, and works fairly well, check out the arXiv.  It does have in place a very basic system of checks in place, but its very basic and just aimed at weeding out articles that would have major errors.
 

Offline imatfaal

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #6 on: 25/10/2010 15:57:43 »
SuperP - who declares them as "peer-review gods" apart from yourself?  

If I read an article in MLR I know what it has gone through and who has looked at it - quite a few of the board have been my teachers and I know the standards they will attempt to maintain.  When I download or buy a self-published article from the internet I have to check every single fact, reference, and quotation; because I cannot be sure that anyone other the author has done so before.  
 

Offline BenV

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #7 on: 25/10/2010 16:10:17 »
SuperP - I'm a little confused as to what you're trying to say here - that self-published, non-peer reviewed material can be as good as peer reviewed work?

Yes, it can - but it also can be rubbish.  You have a certain amount of rights to assume peer reviewed work to be of a certain standard.  This doesn't apply to self published stuff.
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #8 on: 25/10/2010 17:00:47 »
When I download or buy a self-published article from the internet I have to check every single fact, reference, and quotation; because I cannot be sure that anyone other the author has done so before.  

This is true. What is more I find the concept of buying papers based on a synopsis quite inadequate, certainly if it is in semiconductor engineering. It can seem just right, but when you get it, it's hopeless. This is not just to do with lack of peer review though, it is just that you can't tell whether the paper has anything to offer until you have read it. It may be completely correct, but trivial, and a waste of time and money. I also resent searching the web to find that Springerlink, or even the IEEE, have a virtual monopoly. I have recently resigned membership of the IEEE after many years. It always turned out that the papers I wanted appeared in one of the journals to which I had not subscribed and as the "hit rate" of getting one that was close to pertinent was about 5%, it was getting quite expensive.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #9 on: 25/10/2010 17:46:30 »
Please what is MLR ?
 

Offline imatfaal

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Re: Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #10 on: 25/10/2010 17:57:28 »
Syhprum - Modern Law Review, my degrees and academic interests are in law, my engagement with science is purely amateur.  Meant to right in full but just skipped past without noticing, had also edited out section that made point that peer-review was not just for physics.
Graham - quite agree, use of the journals without a broad-spectrum academic access account is almost impossible; too many, too expensive, and too hit and miss.
 

Offline SuperPrincipia

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Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #11 on: 25/10/2010 18:34:54 »
I really appreciate everyone's replies, I believe that I got the public opionions that I was seeking. I will try and be candid and brief about my statement/question; because it is two (2) fold.

1) Earlier in the year I completed a book and submited a proposal to two (2) major book publishing houses. I will not mention their names because I was not suppose to shop either one of those companies based on the 'non' disclosure that each made me sign. But I shopped anyway being smart about it. For that reason alone I won't mention their names; but they the ones that if given the opportunity most would without hesitating if they were not paying attention to the business.

The first company liked my proposal, and when we go to the finance part, they informed me that I would get about $1.00 to $1.50 per book. I though that was robbery. So I shopped to the second company, likewise they also liked my proposal and gave me an approximate number of between $1.50 and $2.00 per book. I also thought that this was robbery.

Both companies were promising limited marketing, and the way I saw it I would still be responsible for major marketing. Also based on our conversations, I could tell that if the books did not start to fly of the shelves in the first three (3) to five (5) months, they were not going to put any more marketing dollars to the project. Now if after the five (5) months the books were not leaping off the shelves I would be responsible for shelling out marketing dollars but they would get the returns and still giving me approximately ~$1.50 per book.

Basically these big publishing houses are just collecting the money and doleing out checks after they pay their bloated administration and marketing departments.

Now if that is not similar to a man "without a mask" holding a gun to your head saying "Give me your money" I don't know what is. And to make matters worse, if I wanted to obtain my own book rights, to go on my own in the future, I would have to buy the right to my book back from them.

This made the consideration of "Self Publishing" a very appealing venture to say the least!

2) By the end of the week I will be submitting two (2) papers to a very prestious journal. And because I am aware of their bias and agenda, the paper is written to get published. But at the same time you never know.

I was watching an interview on television with Peter Higgs of the Higgs Boson Mechanism and he was giving his testimony about how the paper got published. He stated that he sent his paper to a leading European Journal, and they rejected his paper. He said that his feeling were hurt, but he gathered himself and then sent the paper to a leading American Journal and the work got published. They are currently looking or will be looking for the Higgs Boson at the LHC.

So what does that mean the the European "Peer Review Gods" were wrong; And the American "Peer Review God's" were right? What if they both rejected the paper, would that same mechanism that he proposed be incorrect? This appears to me to be a bit hypocritical; and maybe he got lucky, the right set of reviewers like it maybe?

What I see coming is Amazon.com type of companies emerging (arXiv.org) where you submit your paper and PhDs and independent researchers alike can provide their comments about the paper. This would be a more through review process, however this model for "Peer Review" is very similar to Amazon.com's book review process. They provide the data space for the book or paper, and everyone that feels that they are a peer can review.

Once again thanks everyone for their post.
« Last Edit: 25/10/2010 18:44:22 by SuperPrincipia »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Are science books peer reviewed?
« Reply #12 on: 25/10/2010 20:01:49 »
I always understood "peers" in this context to mean other people of equal standing in the field.
I have been called on as a peer reviewer for papers about my speciality in analytical chemistry. But I couldn't peer review an article in a newspaper about politics or fashion because I would know so much less about it than the author that it would be pointless. I might find a spelling mistake or some grammatical error, but that's not the role of peer review. I couldn't peer review a paper on, for example, NMR spectroscopy- it's not my field. On the other hand I could review it.

The point of peer review is that it's done by someone who knows enough to point out problems.
If you can do that for a textbook, it's probably not a textbook you would buy.
 

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Are science books peer reviewed?
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