The publishers of the journal Energy & Environment have threatened libel action against the RealClimate blog because of remarks they made about the peer review process in E&E.
The key quote that upset them, from this post, was:
“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line.”
I think it is somewhat cowardly of E&E to threaten this libel action as it is often used to silence critics when their arguments can’t be refuted with evidence (see the RealClimate post for examples and then go and sign the petition to reform English libel laws).
If E&E can defend their peer review system, then I think should do so. What would be even better is if E&E took the plunge and opened up their peer review process and became a model for other journals. After all, many of the “skeptics” who have published in or are on the editorial board of E&E have called for the peer review process to open up. Here’s a great opportunity to make some progress on that front!
I wrote their publishers a letter explaining my view:
Dear Bill Hughes,
I have just read the letter that you sent to RealClimate regarding their criticism of the peer review process in E&E. I am disappointed that you consider a libel threat a valid response to their post.
Indeed, if E&E has a robust peer review process then this opportunity could be taken to open that process up. In doing so, you could not only refute the claims made by RealClimate but also become a trailblazer for a system to replace the current model of anonymous/closed peer review, which is often criticised for favouring the consensus view on subjects like climate change.
I look forward to an imaginative and constructive response from E&E.