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I would place a lot more trust in a paper that withstood assessment by hundreds of other researchers after publication, even if it was not initially peer reviewed, than one that was published in a peer reviewed journal but was subsequently trashed by large numbers of competent researchers.

The following statement in a ClimateProgress post this past weekend jumped out at me:

“Peer review is the basis of modern scientific endeavour.”

This strikes me as an accurate reflection of the way that many – perhaps most – in the climate world think. It’s also wrong.

The sentiment is not restricted to one side of the policy fight. Yes, climate campaigners regularly point out that the work that backs them up is peer reviewed. Yet many of last year’s attacks on the IPCC (and often, by extension, the enterprise of addressing climate change) focused on its use of non-peer-reviewed sources too.

Why is the statement wrong? Modern science rests on a mix of transparency, replicability, and peer evaluation and challenge. Huge numbers of (sometimes peer-reviewed) papers get published. Some of them stand the test of time. Others don’t. What separates the wheat from the chaff is ultimately whether the work withstands broad scrutiny.

Full comment: Council on Foreign Relations, 8 July 2011