Monday, February 22, 2010

Peer review isn't flawless 

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.

The study, published in 2009 in Nature Geoscience, one of the top journals in its field, confirmed the conclusions of the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It used data over the last 22,000 years to predict that sea level would rise by between 7cm and 82cm by the end of the century.

At the time, Mark Siddall, from the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Bristol, said the study "strengthens the confidence with which one may interpret the IPCC results". The IPCC said that sea level would probably rise by 18cm-59cm by 2100, though stressed this was based on incomplete information about ice sheet melting and that the true rise could be higher.
Nature Geoscience says it committed to publishing significant, high-quality research in the Earth Sciences through a fair, rapid and rigorous peer review process that is overseen by a team of full-time professional editors.
One slipped past the goalie here. It would be easy to laugh and say this is proof global warming is a crock and the peer review process is flawed. But of course it is. What's important about this piece is to say that in this particular case the system actually worked. A piece of bad science got through the peer review process -- which is bound to happen -- and that when technical mistakes were found, they retracted the article. Does peer review fail more with articles that support AGW than oppose it? I don't know. That is a question worth researching, if anyone has the time.

(h/t: Eric Fruits)

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