It’s “Academic Research”, it must be true!

bribe

 

The Health Writers Hub rated these publications as the top medical journals in the world:
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New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
Nature
The Lancet
The British Medical Journal (BMJ)
Annals of Internal Medicine
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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The DBIO SLA Medical and Life Sciences Division put these medical journals at the top of their list:

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The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
The British Medical Journal (BMJ)
The Lancet

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These findings are echoed by a number of other sites aimed at the medical practitioner and academic. There is obviously some difference of opinion, usually dependant on the country that hosts the site, as there will always be a bit of national bias; it is to be expected. There is, however, a surprising consensus when listing the top ten medical journals in the world, and the journals listed above always find themselves amongst the top.

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What places these journals above other research publications? Well, although the circulation and number of readers is important, the primary grading mechanism is the stringency of the peer review system.

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One of the most concise and easy-to-understand descriptions of the peer-review process is in a (peer-reviewed) article by Voight and Hoogenboom in  (peer-reviewed) The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy:

“1. To help select quality articles for publication (filter out studies that have been poorly conceived, designed, and executed) with the selection being based upon:
• The scientific merit and validity of the article and its methodology
• Has the research that is being reported been carried out well with no flaws in the   design or methodology?
• Ensure that the work is reported correctly, with acknowledgement of the existing body of work.
• Ensure that the results presented have been interpreted correctly and all possible interpretations considered.
• Ensure that the results are not too preliminary or speculative, but at the same time not block the sharing of innovative new research and theories.
• The relevance of the article to the specific clinical practice – select work that will be the greatest interest to the readership
• The interest of the topic to the clinical reader
• The presentation and understandability of the article itself
2. To improve the manuscript whenever possible.
• Generally improve the quality and readability of a publication.
3. To check against malfeasance within the scientific and clinical community. (my bold)
4.Provide editors with evidence to make judgments as to whether articles meet the selection criteria for their particular publication.”

OMG.

When looking at the lists of top medical journals in the world, did you by any chance spot any of the publications relied on by the wind industry and their supporters to back up their claim that wind turbines do not affect people’s health and that it is all imagination?

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The publications of the Australian Medical Association National Health and Medicine Research Council (NHMRC) for example, much loved by the Australian Government ? Or “Health Canada”, much loved by the Canadian government and the Irish Energy Minister, Alex White ?

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In fact, that could be an interesting exercise. In whatever country you are in, have a look at the sources of “academic research” used by the wind industry or your government to justify wind farms. Can you find them in that list of top medical journals? Are they even mentioned by any of those ranking sites? Gosh, not even in the top two hundred? What, not at all?

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Of course not, they are not academic journals with a rigorous peer-review process. They are propaganda sheets. Wind-industry nonsense masquerading as academic research but appearing in in-house publications of organisations either directly or indirectly funded by the government and/or the wind industry. And yet politicians around the world rely on them as if they were the Gospel. Well they would, wouldn’t they, given that they tell the authors what to say in the first place?

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And what do the true academic journals say? I have done a previous review of peer-reviewed research into ‘wind turbine syndrome’ as it is (disparagingly) called. You can read that here.

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One of the cited examples was from the top British publication, the BMJ, which has the most stringent peer-review process on this side of the Atlantic.

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Christopher D Hanning, an honorary consultant in sleep medicine, and Alun Evans, professor emeritus, published an editorial entitled “Wind Turbine Noise” in the BMJ; in which they concluded:

“A large body of evidence now exists to suggest that wind turbines disturb sleep and impair health at distances and external noise levels that are permitted in most jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom. Sleep disturbance may be a particular problem in children, and it may have important implications for public health. When seeking to generate renewable energy through wind, governments must ensure that the public will not suffer harm from additional ambient noise. Robust independent research into the health effects of existing wind farms is long overdue, as is an independent review of existing evidence and guidance on acceptable noise levels.”

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If you read the article you will notice the pains to which the authors go to show that they have conducted independent research, free from any funding or other influences. You will also see that the research that they use to supplement their own primary research is all drawn from similar peer-reviewed journals. That is as it should be.

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Unfortunately, the American journals were too expensive for me to access the full articles. That’s what happens when you don’t have the industry dollars or state funding with strings attached, you rely on reader subscriptions. For those of you who can afford to, here is an article from one of the top American medical journals, JAMA:

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‘Expansion of Renewable Energy Industries and Implications for Occupational Health’. Steven A. Sumner, MD; Peter M. Layde, MD, MSc. JAMA. 2009; 302(7): 787-789.

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Note also that these articles were written in 2012 and 2009 respectively, and yet they, and many others, are still being ignored.

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So the next time a government minister, or anybody else for that matter, relies on what they call “academic research”, check out its provenance. Does it appear in an independent peer-reviewed journal? How stringent is that peer review? Is the journal in question ranked amongst the top publications? Is the publisher a recognised academic publisher as opposed to an organisation? Were the writers themselves funded by any organisation? And so on.

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It’s not rocket science. I bet that if they tried really hard, even politicians could get it.

About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from practice in 2002 to take up a full-time lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). He is an accredited and practising mediator and is busy writing a book, with Dr Sinead Conneely, on Mediation in Ireland. His current interest is Ireland’s energy policy and its impact on the people and the environment. He is also researching the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
This entry was posted in Academic Research; Peer-Review Process; Medical Journals, Dr Sarah Laurie; Steve Cooper; Bob McMurtry; Alun Evans, EU Renewable Energy 2020 Target, NREAP; National Renewable Energy Action Plan; EU Commission; Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee; ACCC, Paudie Coffey; series compensation; Fine Gael; Alan Kelly; Alex White, The Spokes of the Wheel; wind farms; Ireland; Windfall, Wind Turbine Syndrome; Professor Alun Evans and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to It’s “Academic Research”, it must be true!

  1. Pat Swords says:

    Neil

    Interesting point, but the issue is wider. Unfortunately there is a lot of pseudo science out there and academics beating the ‘Green’ drum with what can only be described as published rubbish. As a technical person myself I was intrigued when I came across the position of Fritz Vahrenholt, who not only has a strong technical and political background, but was actually managing RWE’s renewable energy division in Germany. Then as a Rapporteur (Reviewer) of the UN’s IPCC climate change reports on renewable energy, he was so deeply disgusted, at not only the lack of quality, but the sheer fabrication and distortion, which was going on, that he started investigation the rest of the IPCC’s work on justifying catastrophic man-made climate change. It didn’t take him long to discover how bad that was also and as a result he co-authored a book ‘Die kalte Sonne’ (the cold sun), pointing out that the dominant influence was natural and there was no climate catastrophe around the corner. This didn’t win him too many friends in the ‘Angst’ ridden Germany, which as we know has a history of mass hysteria events, such as currently in relation to climate change and nuclear power. However, the article below is of interest and Fritz has been an active campaigner on the issue now for some time.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/breaking-global-warming-taboos-i-feel-duped-on-climate-change-a-813814.html

    So after reading his views on how bad the renewable sections of the IPCC’s reports were, I actually took it upon myself to do some reading. Chapters 7 and 8 below are the key ones related to wind energy and the grid redesign to accommodate it:

    http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report

    You can see there is a considerable Irish connection:

    http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/authors/chapter-8

    Anyhow, I’ll let the technical minded one’s among you come to your own conclusions after a read, but they are bad, unless you like stuff written by ‘researchers’ for the wind industry, who have never worked for a proper project engineering company in their lives and actually delivered anything tangible in the power generation sector. Then to me there is a huge issue that none of these Irish technical resources (and similar for other countries) actually carry liability insurance, which any professional engineering services company does; it’s another reason why an actual project engineering company doesn’t bullshit, it’s too risky. Note; there were no such companies engaged in this IPCC work.

    The real interesting part is when one actually goes into the ‘drafts’ section and starts reviewing the so called ‘professional review comments’, which are meant to be the quality control, and what they actually say, such as on Chapters 7 and 8:

    http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report/srren-drafts-and-review/Drafts%20and%20Review

    Note for instance ‘Vahrenholt’s comments’ on the first draft of Chapter 8.

    Vahrenholt (RWE Innogy GmbH): “IPCC: “”(﾿) no fundamental barriers exist that preclude increased levels of wind penetration into electricity supply systems.”” RWEI objections: Volatility, cost of shut down, energy needed for balancing the grid. ”

    Then the IPCC response: “We will alter the text to be clear on meaning. We are
    not saying that concerns do not exist, or that active management is not needed. We are trying to say that these are not impassable barriers, but instead are issues that can be resolved at some reasonable cost up to moderate penetrations. We will try to make this more clear”.

    So, political bullshit rather than proper engineering professionalism with quantification of the issue. Yet we are a meant to ‘tow the line’ on this crap and follow it blindly with multiple billions and the wrecking of our natural environment.

    As I said the more you read the comments on these drafts, the more you realise that these academics are arrogant bullshit merchants. Take for instance Paul Smith of University College Dublin on the second draft of Chapter 8:

    “There is too much reference to short term issues; the big picture is missing. For large scale integration of RE (1) timely and efficient extension and reinforcement of tranmission grids will be required, to deliver renewable power reliably to demand centres, and to extend and interconnect power systems to benefit from geographichal diversity. This may involve the deployment of
    novel technologies, as well as overcoming public opposition. Methods to determine optimal network expansion to cater for stochastic and relatively low-load factor generation sources must be developed; (2) the question of reactive power and voltage control and stability must be addressed and solutions developed and deployed. (3) the performance of RE plants during
    system disturbances and outages must be assessed”.

    Why do we need all of this shite, maybe the public know a thing or two? As the same Paul Smith pointed out latter:

    “The message from this sentence is that there should be no public consultation or participation in planning processes. It suggests that dictatorship and imposing developments on the public is the way to go. This is utterly unacceptable. This sentence must be re-written to highlight the risk of delay and the importance of effective public consultation and communication, and
    the vital role of opinion formers”

    The Chapter 7 Second Order Draft, the comment from Japan (the Japanese Ministry of Foreign
    Affairs): “The discussion that infrasounds have no impact on human health is written in Chapter 9 Page 29 lines 20-22 and not spotlighted at all here, in this section dedicated to “noise, flicker, health and safety.” If there is really enough evidence to prove that the low frequency noise is indeed harmless to human health, it should be discussed here as well.”

    The response of the IPCC: “Infrasound impacts have received very little scientific attention focused on wind specifically, but have generated a lot of controversy. Since little is absolutely known in this area, we have chosen to keep the text somewhat general. Nonetheless, we will
    review this literature again to determine what can, and what should not, be said at this point based on the available literature”.

    As I said; irresponsible bullshit merchants.

    At least Michael Power from University College Dublin was starting to ‘cop on to himself’:

    “Actual operating experience, as outlined in chapter 7, is very limited. A lot more emphasis is placed on the studies rather than operating experience. I assume this is because we just don’t have the experience as yet. It has taken over 50 years for us to learn how to operate conventional power systems proficiently and we still have blackouts. It should be remembered
    that the number of changes now being proposed to both generators and loads is very significant. A number of significant lessons will have to be learned before we will be able to operate RE based systems proficiently. I think the tone of the document in 7.5.4.2 and 7.5.5 is extremely optimistic, based on such a limited operating history”

    The IPCC Reply: “A fair balance is struck with the sentence on page 38 line 12: “That said, concerns about (and the costs of) wind energy integration will grow with wind energy deployment and, even at medium penetration levels, integration issues must be actively managed.” However, we do need to be clear that operating experience is limited, and that as more experience becomes available understanding of the issues will become more refined. We will review the
    document and alter text accordingly”.

    The more you look into all of this IPCC stuff, the more you realise it’s a load of irresponsible assholes out of control. It’s got noting to do with proper science and technology, it’s all to do with politicised assholes, the overwhelming amount of which happen to hang out in academia with no proper form of quality control and associated responsible behaviour.

    Fritz was right to call a spade a spade.

  2. Pingback: It’s “Academic Research”, it must be true! | ajmarciniak

  3. John says:

    nice article! just one thing – as far as I know, editorial in BMJ is an opinion piece as opposed to peer – reviewed, therefore it has no ‘scientific’ value really.

    • Thanks John, and you are absolutely correct, an editorial is not peer approved. I suppose we can rely on the credence of the editors of such a prestigious journal, but it is their opinion nonetheless. Thanks for the feedback – much appreciated.

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