“Peer review is to the governing of the scientific enterprise what democracy is to the governing of the country,” the National Research and Innovation Alliance states in a manifesto research independence
“Benefits to the nation and the advancement of knowledge are best served by a culture where researchers can put forward views and present data for discussion and scrutiny free from interference and without fear of reprisal,” the alliance asserts,
While the statement is silent as to why and why now it needs to speak up, last weekend the National Party adopted as policy the establishment of “an independent science quality agency, to check scientific papers underpinning public policy and affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.”
Contra this, the alliance asserts the authority of peer review as ensuring the integrity of science.
“Peer review is to the governing of the scientific enterprise what democracy is to the governing of the country. The concept of peer review retains the confidence of the majority of researchers and the Australian research funding agencies, assuring that they support the highest quality research.”
And it warns against the alternative, “attempts to bypass peer review allow unqualified individuals and organisations to compare their often ad-hoc views with findings derived from well-controlled analyses of available data and experimental investigations. This has the potential to subject science to political interference.”
The Alliance also issues a challenge; “those who disagree with peer-reviewed findings should participate in the scientific process and subject their findings to the same level of scrutiny and review.”
The statement is backed by eleven organisations; Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, Australian Academy of Science, Australian Society for Medical Research, Australian Technology Network, Group of Eight, Innovative Research Universities, Professionals Australia, Research Australia, Rural R&D Corporations and Science and Technology Australia.
However not all alliance members who signed previous manifestos are named on this one – the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Regional Universities Network and the Cooperative Research Centres Association are notably absent. A learned reader suggests that this is not because non-signers oppose the statement but because they would like the Nats policy to be ignored.