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Buried among a spate of bad news announcements that the B.C. government released over the Christmas holidays was an update on a province-wide system for peer reviews of medical scans. The system was to have been operational by 2014, but still isn't in place at three of five health authorities and won't be until mid-2016 at the earliest.
The summary of the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has been released, and it confirms that climate change is real, dangerous, and caused by us. More than 97% of science papers that take a position on climate change support this conclusion.This unprecedented level of scientific certainty has not stopped legions of pundits from rejecting evidence, questioning scientists' motives and qualifications, and proposing ever-sillier ideas that scientists themselves are part of a vast international green conspiracy. If only that were true.
No reform -- imposed from the top, or emerging from the bottom -- will be successful as long as academics in Canada continue to participate in the failed folly that is the existing research grant system. We need leadership from Canadian academics themselves, and scholars will need to be brave.
At its best, peer review ensures published findings in academic papers are based on scholarship that is meaningful, relevant, and credible. At its worst, peer review is slow, expensive, and nowhere near impartial. The problem is that peer review has been shown to re-institute orthodoxy as new discoveries.
Over time, hiring, promotion and tenure committees have favoured grant writers and grantsmanship over other perhaps more creative and innovative scholars who don't toe the line. There are serious consequences when, as in the current system, you invest in projects and not people.