June 08, 2004

I Thought the Hard Sciences Were Supposed to be, You Know, Hard. And Scientific.

And that papers written for their journals were supposed to undergo rigorous peer review. I guess everyone has an off day now and then, but WOAH.

And it's not like the "study" was published in The Journal of New Agey Tripe Today, either.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at June 8, 2004 09:47 AM

Wait, the paper was removed not because of the bogus science, but because of the unrelated bank fraud charge levelled at one of the authors? Or that's what the article seems to imply...

Posted by: Joshua Macy at June 8, 2004 10:38 AM

I think both, but it seems the author of the Chronicle piece is trying to avoid getting pulled into a "religion is bunk, no it isn't, yes it is" morass, which, mark my words, will happen eventually with this stuff.

That was my take on it, anyway.

Posted by: BAW at June 8, 2004 10:58 AM

Okay, cynical newly-tenured-by-the-skin-of-my-teeth college professor talking here, but:

I think these days getting a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal is largely a crapshoot. Part of it is based on who you are - even anonymous reviewers seem leery of criticising a paper from a Big Famous Hotshot Who Could Someday Help Their Career. And part of it is based on how careful and attentive the reviewer is (or, conversely, on how badly he or she misunderstands your article or how pissy of a mood he or she is in when he or she reviews it).

I've reviewed articles myself. I make an effort to respond to the article on its merits - especially examining the methodology used. But I have to say I've not had the same courtesy extended me in articles I've sent out - I've actually had editors tell me "oh, disregard what "x" said in his review, he's riding his hobby horse again" or worse, have the journal 'lose' my article for six months and then send it out to review by people outside of my area of research.

I hate academic publishing. It feels like a game to which I do not know the rules. I've had things go in without revisions that I thought were not my best efforts, and I've had things that my co-authors and I worked long and hard on (and thought was pretty good) be summarily rejected over some trivial point.

Sorry to rant here, but I really think in much academic publishing, it's not really a meritocracy, with only good articles being published, any more.

Posted by: ricki at June 8, 2004 11:24 AM

The concept of peer review is vastly overrated. Like communism, it sounds great on paper. Like communism, what sounds great on paper ignores both history and human nature.

Peer review is probably better than nothing... But only barely. Too often the words "published in a peer reviewed journal" add authority to a paper or study that deserves little or none.


Posted by: Myria at June 8, 2004 12:09 PM

Peanuts' Charlie Brown: I've made an interesting theological discovery. If you hold your hands upside-down when you pray, you get the opposite of what you ask for.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at June 8, 2004 12:33 PM

Hey, what's the big deal?

I mean, the AMA has published all sorts of sociological commentary in it's pages. The APA has published all sorts of political pieces as research.

So what's the big deal with one more?

(Kidding, people. Was never interested in the publish-or-perish mentality @ big universities. With peer review, I never knew if I was supposed to kiss their tushes or if they were doing it to me. Just leave me alone and let me TEACH.)

Posted by: di at June 8, 2004 12:52 PM
And it's not like the "study" was published in The Journal of New Agey Tripe Today, either.

But it wasn't Nature. The Journal of Reproductive Medicine has an impact factor of 0.7. Pretty low. I don't trust much of what I read in journals, but a journal like that is almost useless.

(Not that I won't have to resort to such levels to get my own stuff published.)

Posted by: Tom at June 8, 2004 03:45 PM

The story is like a novel in some ways, with lots of crime, serial identities:

The other of Mr. Weird's no, Wirth's papers were in Healing Sciences Research International, 29 Orinda Way, Box 1888, Orinda, CA 94563--some sort of weird front Wirth and his co-conspirator Horvath used.

The end of the story: Horvath got an IT job, using the false identity John Wayne Truelove, at Adelphia's Buffalo office in 1999, and from September 2001 to March 2002, funneled 12 payments to Daniel Wirth, totalling $2.1 million for “computer consulting.”

Wirth and Horvath have been friends and co....dupers? Delusionists? since they both were at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda (where Wirth got his law degree). In 1990, Horvath was jailed for fraud (at that time he was using the identity of a child who had died in 1957, Joseph Hessler. The fraud charge came about because Horvath claimed he had been robbed of a $30,000 night deposit.

"John Wayne Truelove" is another dead child, this one died in 1959. Both Horvath and Truelove have used the Truelove identity--Horvath to buy a bungalow in and burn it down for the insurance payment; Wirth, in the 1980s, to obtain a passport and obtain a passport and rent apartments in California. Additionally, Wirth was “ Rudy Wirth” to establish an address in New York and claim social security benefits. The real Rudy Wirth died in 1998.

Wirth and Horvath originally claimed innocence, but evidently arrainged a plea bargain, as they pled guilty to fewer charges just before the case was to go to trial.

Posted by: Liz Ditz at June 10, 2004 01:23 AM