Peer-to-Peer

Open forums and pseudoscience

The Nature Precedings forum on Nature Network is featuring a stimulating and thoughtful discussion about how to handle pseudoscience postings. Santosh Patnaik writes: “Though Nature Precedings screens submissions for pseudo-scientific content, it is possible for such a submission to get through. An example might be ”http://precedings.nature.com/documents/579/version/1">this article on Nature Precedings: this website suggests that the authors are supporting “creationism/intelligent design.” This leads one to wonder how pseudo-science is identified, and what the policy is towards accepted articles that are later identified as pseudo-scientific."

Timo Hannay responds: “Nature Precedings does not accept pseudo-science. Spotting this and other inappropriate content is the job of our curators. In the month since launch they have already filtered out many such examples. In this particular case, the curator handling the contribution was concerned about the nature of the content and so consulted a senior journal editor with very considerable expertise in this area. In their opinion, it is not pseudo-science and is worth posting for community comment.”

The discussion that follows touches on how to define and identify pseudoscience; whether preperint server managers should block postings of it; what tools can be used by the community to indicate quality; how an inchoherent writing style can obscure meaning; and the role of scientists in helping to promote “real” science and identify the flaws in pseudoscience, for the wider public.

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