Exposing PseudoAstronomy

November 21, 2013

Podcast Episode 93: The Importance, Methods, and Faults of Peer Review

How work is reviewed
Within the fields of science …
Vers’s pseudoscience.

This one’s an unconventional episode where I talk about one of the most basic ideas and processes in science: That of Peer Review.

As I gear up to do an episode every few days in prep for my trip to Australia, Dec. 16 – Jan. 21, more of these different kinds of episodes will be coming up – and episodes with just the main segment and not other ones like Q&A and Puzzler – and I’m also planning/conducting a lot of interviews to make putting out episodes over those ~5 weeks easier on me. There’s also still the reminder to let me know (if you haven’t yet) if you’re interested in participating in the 100th episode spectacular. To do so, you should have a decent microphone and be able to ad lib and come up with crazy ideas.



  1. Enjoyed the episode, I had a very rough idea of how ‘peer-review’ worked and this clarifies it. No wonder ‘alternative thinkers’ preferr to bypass it or set up their own pseudo-academic journals.

    I’m currently looking at a fictional astronomical conspiracy theory from around 1998, but am not too impressed with the authors astronomical knowledge, one of the things being covered up is that a comet is moving faster as it gets closer to the Sun…

    I’m guessing that the authors were inspired Shoemaker-Levy 9 and possibly whatever Nancy Leider was putting out at that stage.

    Enjoy the East Coast of Australia.

    Comment by Graham — November 22, 2013 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Graham. Are you in western Australia? We head out in … gosh, a little over 3 weeks, I think. Kinda crazy…

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — November 22, 2013 @ 7:57 pm | Reply

      • I do indeed live in the state of Western Australia. I’ve finished reading the fictional conspiracy, the comparison with Hazlewood is ‘interesting’ as is their poor grasp of astronomy. If you are interested I can write up a summary (Give me a couple of days) and email it to you.

        Comment by Graham — November 23, 2013 @ 3:38 am

      • Sure, if you’d like.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — November 24, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  2. I have the same thoughts as Graham – had a vague understanding of peer review, but this helped me understand the finer details of it. A great podcast and should be recommended to everyone new to science.

    Comment by Flip — December 1, 2013 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

  3. Peer review is necessary for good and objective scientific procedures and results, i understand.
    Thank you for the clear explanation, Dr. Robbins.

    Comment by Jennifer — December 3, 2013 @ 6:31 am | Reply

  4. Stuart,

    I was going through the videos by Youtube poster Martymer81 (The guy doing the skeptical videos on the whole ‘Spirit Science’ series.) and he did one video (linked below) which covers a paper on gravity published by something called the ‘General Science Journal’ which states that peer review is counter to scientific progress, the paper itself claims that gravity does not exist, one reason given is that hydrogen/helium balloons rise!

    A better reason for peer review I cannot imagine… The journal may provide a source for a future episode.

    Comment by Graham — April 25, 2015 @ 4:16 am | Reply

    • Thanks for the info. I’ve already done a fairly comprehensive episode on peer review, so I don’t see an immediate episode from this, but I’ll keep it in mind.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — May 3, 2015 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

      • I think the disproof of gravity, might make a good article. I’ve seen another article on an Anthropology blog which includes this prize quote from a pseudo-scientist about peer revew:

        “What they’re talking about in peer review is ten guys just like themselves, who have the same exact degrees, who have the same exact theory. You write all your paper out, you present it to your peers to review. Well, if you do anything that is against the system, anything which is against the status quo, anything against what those degrees taught you it was, not only do they edit it, but in most times you have self-identified yourself as a rebel. And what happens is you get run out of town, you don’t get your tenure, you’re made into a laughing stock. So peer review is not to assure quality, as much as I believe peer review is actually to hide the smoking guns.”


        Not much different from Hoagland’s nonsense really.

        Comment by Graham — May 6, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

      • Thanks, I’ll keep it in mind.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — May 14, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

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