Friday, September 27, 2013

The Peer Review Process

In the programme Science Brittannica broadcast on Wed 25 Sep, professor Brian Cox waves the flag for British Science.  I watched some of the second episode (I can only take so much of him, even though I went to Manchester and did physics). Cox was bragging about the peer review process, and how it had been important to the trustworthiness of the science published by The Royal Institution from the days of Isaac Newton.  The Royal Society's motto: "Take nobody's word for it".

During the programme, Cox interviewed the editor-in-chief of the journal Nature, Dr Philip Campbell, who said that a paper is reviewed by other scientists to see if it is valid.  Then to my astonishment, Campbell made the remarkable admissions that the peer review process was "full of little holes", that "bad papers can slip through", that they are "not perfect", and to cap it, that there are "degrees of bias" on the part of the reviewers. And these were the comments of a physicist who had read many papers, and has been heavily embroiled in the climate change controversy.  

So if this is what the peer review process in science is like, what is it like in biblical studies where academics are more given to argumentation?  I suggest that you ask professor Larry Hurtado, the Emeritus professor of New testament language, literature and theology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.  I wrote the above details of Campbell's comments to his weblog but he deleted them.  Hurtado describes the practice of palaeography as a science.