Dysfunctional Peer Review of New Science?

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The scholarly peer review system may be functional for normal science or puzzle solving routine science in the sense of Kuhn, but is not well suited to handle non-normal new science challenging an existing paradigm. This is because any new idea poses a threat to existing normal science and as such often meets overly negative reviews by referees without sufficient knowledge of the novelty. Correct new science may thus get rejected without good reasons,  but is also possible that incorrect new science can get accepted by uncritical referees.

Claes Johnson

Furrther, incorrect normal science may be perpetuated by the peer review system, because incorrect normal science can only be questioned by new science.

In short, the peer review system is not suitable to handle new science, because either (i) good articles are rejected on bad grounds, or (ii) bad articles are accepted without good grounds. 

An example of new science is given by the article New Theory of Flight presented on The Secret of Flight. The article was rejected by AIAA Journal and is now under review by Journal of Mathematical Fluid Mechanics JMFM. 

JMFM has a difficult case to handle: Referees from normal science of fluid mechanics are not eager to touch the article and if so the review will be negative because the existing paradigm is challenged. On the other hand referee’s from outside the fluid mechanics community under AIAA may not be able to give a credible review.


The normal science of flight as an example of an incorrect theory formulated 100 years ago, which has survived as normal science in the absence of a correct theory, carried by the peer review system and AIAA.

One option in such a case would seem to be to publish the article without peer review and then open to discussion with participation from normal science.

More from Professor Claes Johnson here.

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