Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the producers of the work. It constitutes a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance, and provide credibility (wiki).
In Britain, as in the US, peer review also happens in politics. We have a house of Lords and a house of Commons who review each others work. It is the same in the States with the House of Representatives and the Senate.
I am not going to get dragged into an argument about USS, but I am prepared to stand up for politics. Our political system cannot be dismissed so easily. Academic peer review is not superior to political review because academics have carried it out.
There is no divine right of academics.
The political system in this country is designed to apply common sense to debate. Consequently Government, whether in Westminster, Brighton (tPR), Stratford (FCA) or in any of the local authorities, right down to the parishes, is the application of common sense to debate.
Common sense cannot be dismissed by academics.
Academic peer review is important, but it can be very introspective. If you note the people liking John Kiff’s tweet, they are like-minded scholars.
It is very like academics to use their networks to sign joint letters and to extrapolate this inter-connectivity to suggest that they represent global authority. So the 39 academics who are co-signatories of “our letter” are supposed to represent worldwide support for a particular idea. But we know that the internet, and especially the social end of the internet, can bring people together in small clubs very easily. These clubs – groups – pages – can easily become their own echo chamber.
What appears to have happened with the club of 39 is that they have bestowed on themselves false authority, through the mechanism of a joint letter.
I too have signed a joint letter recently. I signed a letter calling for a resolution of the “net pay anomaly”. I did not sign that letter as someone authoritative, I don’t want to promote myself as expert in an academic or any other way. I simply wanted to make my and my company’s position clear on a matter of gross inequality.
We submitted the letter , not to a pension scheme, but to a Government Office – the Treasury. It was a petition on behalf of a certain group of people whose interests we think are not being properly promoted.
The distinction is quite clear. Instead of by-passing and then dismissing politics, we appealed directly to Government. I hope that our appeal is successful but I am prepared to accept the ruling of Government.
Those academics who dismiss the law, are promoting their ideas as above the law. That is always a dangerous thing to do. The law says that schemes can adopt an “expected rate of return” funding basis and some choose to do so. That law comes from parliament and was subject to peer review – by a House of Peers.
Academics (and financial economists do) criticise schemes for taking unnecessary risk, but they have no special privileges to be right. There are other academics that support a best estimate funding approach and they too have no right to be right.
The rule of law is everything, without it – we would descend into anarchy. From time to time over Britain’s political history, certain groups have claimed special authority. Financial Economists seem to be claiming special authority right now.
But they have no special authority, they are petitioners – like everyone else – in our common weal. The rights of the common man are upheld and enforced by our political system and they cannot be undermined by any special interest group.