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Peer-Review:  Why does it matter?

Peer review image One of the basic foundations of modern science, whether it be medicine, physics or climatology, is "peer review." Peer review means new scientific discoveries, ideas, and implications are not accepted or considered valid until they have been scrutinized, critiqued, and favorably reviewed by other scientists who are experts in the same area or scientific field.

The peer-review process commonly takes place as a prerequisite to the publication of a scientific paper. When scientists wish to publish papers on their scientific discoveries, the journal to which the paper is submitted usually will ask two or more other scientists in the same or a similar field (i.e., scientific peers) to review the paper.These reviewers will rigorously evaluate the work to make sure that the results are well supported by the data. If the paper passes the review and is accepted for publication, we can assume that the science is well-founded and valid. Sometimes the paper does not pass the review and is not published, but more often, the reviewers ask questions that the authors of the manuscript have to address satisfactorily before their paper is published.

Not all published scientific work is peer-reviewed. When a scientist or informed non-scientist wishes to evaluate new or controversial scientific papers, one of the first things they usually ask is if the paper was published in a journal that requires critical peer-reviews. Journals such as "Science" and "Nature" are among the most highly regarded journals in terms of the peer-review process. Articles and opinions published in newspapers or popular-press magazines (for example, "Time" and "Newsweek") are not peer-reviewed, and thus must be considered with caution if they are not based on a peer-reviewed scientific papers. Moreover, some "scientific" books and journals do not involve rigorous peer-reviews, readers must be careful not to put much scientific faith in what is presented in these books or journals.

The peer-review process sets a scientific standard; we know that peer-reviewed scientific work has been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation by experts in the appropriate field and has been judged valid. All of the scientific journal results reported in this www site, "A Paleo Perspective on Global Warming," have undergone this level of scientific peer-review.

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