The Lancet, research, future of journals, and global warming

I am listening to a podcast of A Shot of Reality on NPR’s On The Media’s Feb. 5, 2010 show.

The host is interviewing Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, a British medical journal recently made (in)famous for feeding the vaccine/autism hoax.

The editor says The Lancet must be more careful in the future.

Translation: more of The Lancet‘s future articles will support the status quo. This will reduce hoaxes, but it crowds out legitimate alternative theories.

Are academic journals even relevant? Whatever relevancy they have is mainly because the research community is clinging to an outdated model. And let’s don’t forget these wickedly expensive journals have their own fiscal incentive to perpetuate themselves.

Research is living and constantly evolving. Why then rely on a content delivery method that can only create frozen, dead documents? Where corrections require new, frozen documents? This is silly.

Some say if we don’t have journals, we effectively lose the peer review process because respected academics aren’t the gatekeepers. Hardly. Wikipedia’s not perfect, but it shows that a completely open model, that even allows anonymous editing, can produce highly reliable information. Services like the Educause-sponsored academia.edu show it shouldn’t be hard to limit involvement just to the research community–not to the “select few” researchers but the entire community. This increases veracity by at least an order of magnitude.

Richard Horton said that Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the originator of the fraudulent research, was respected politically and academically for years, and his words were taken as “gospel truth.”

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t this sound like James Hansen, Al Gore, IPCC, etc.? All of whom deliver polemic research so political, agenda-driven, and error-full that people are stating to question the scientific basis of global warming?

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