Letter: Derided science

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The Independent Culture
Derided science

Sir: Steve Connor's statement that "science is science only when it is published in a reputable scientific journal" as placed within the context of peer review ("When science facts become science fiction", 22 May) has become something of an elitist mantra in recent months and deserves to be challenged.

Peer review is a process of anonymous evaluation generally used to assist in the prioritisation, in an environment of limited resources, of scientific grant applications, and in the selection of papers for publication. Peer review is not an absolute process by which a defining line can be drawn between science and non-science. It would be absurd to suggest that a rejected alpha-rated research grant application, or a leading-edge keynote address at an international conference is, somehow, not science.

Many scientists who work for their living in the real world rarely aspire, or even need, to publish their scientific contributions in scientific journals. Nevertheless the results of their work are likely to be subject to proper scrutiny by a variety of careful processes, albeit not through peer review.

Too often this salt-of-the-earth science, essential to underpinning our national economy, quality of life and safety, is derided in circles that should know better.

Sir JOHN KNILL

Shaw, Berkshire

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