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‘Nothing like what the public think it is’: Peter Ridd on the truth about climate change and ‘peer review’

25 May 2020

4:00 PM

25 May 2020

4:00 PM

Dr Peter Ridd speaks to Gideon Rozner about why ‘peer review’ is not necessarily the quality-control mechanism that the public has been led to believe it is. 

Peter Ridd: Peer review is nothing like what the public think it is. Peer review is usually when a couple of scientists review a piece of work for often not more than a couple of hours. They may actually be friends of the original scientist. The original work is never replicated. The experiment is never done again. They don’t pore over the data or anything like that. It’s just a cursory check. So the public have been conned by a lot of scientists into thinking that peer review is something, which it is not.

Gideon Rozner: What sort of accuracy rate do you get on peer-reviewed papers?

Peter Ridd: It’s about 50 per cent wrong. Recently this has become a big scandal in science in the last five or 10 years. It’s called the replication crisis. In lots of areas, biomedical area, psychology, chemistry, even physics, when they do replication studies they find that very roughly about half of the peer-reviewed work can’t be repeated. It’s got errors in it.

Gideon Rozner: Fifty per cent? 


Peter Ridd: Fifty per cent. It’s a scandal, and I’m amazed that more people don’t know about this in fact.

Gideon Rozner: You’ve been critical of not just this being bad science, but the fact that it’s led to poor policy choices and more to the point, very expensive ones.

Peter Ridd: Yes, that’s right. I mean, in a sense most science is never used. It’s interesting. It might end up on Catalyst or something like that. But it’s when it’s going to be used by governments, if it hasn’t been checked properly then the government can waste an awful lot of money. That’s what’s happening with the reef. That’s probably what’s happening with climate change and many, many other areas where governments are using science, which has just been peer-reviewed.

Listen to the full interview on the IPA’s new podcast The Heretic: Inside Peter Ridd’s fight for freedom of speech on climate change.

Listen to The Hereticon Apple Podcasts.

Gideon Rozner is Director of Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs. Join as a member at www.ipa.org.au.

Illustration: IPA.

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