Peer Review Or Blogs?
Peer review is considered to be the gold standard for assessing the scientific merit of an idea or a certain interpretation of results. When a scientist or group of scientists write a paper, they submit it to a journal. The editor then sends the paper to other scientists working in the area (the “peers”). These theoretically independent reviewers read the paper, assess its worth, and respond “reject,” “accept with modification,” or “accept.” The last option is rarely taken!
Once the paper is published, the scientific community is still not off the hook. They then should then continue the interaction by trying to repeat the experiments and publishing support or rebuttal of the new idea. The problem is that this process takes time. In addition, frequently, repeat experiments are not funded (and therefore do not happen).
In come the bloggers. Although many blogs do not contribute much to scientific debate, a few do. Some blogs are written by “peers” and some by others who are very capable of thoughtful criticism.
Of course, published peer review via scientific journals is an important place where scientific debate occurs. But, it is not the only option. And since, in some subjects, results that differ from the scientific consensus are censored, this is not a bad thing.