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Peer review

  1. Jan 1, 2016 #1
    I Just got asked to review a paper on autonoetic consciousness in relation to it's validity in eyewitness testimony for a major international science journal. They want me to evaluate the procedures used to "prep" witnesses for eyewitness testimony (in terms of the paper). Even though the paper has scatterplot diagrams to "bolsten" the arguments, I'm still pre-biased to eschew eyewitness testimony as a relevant factor in any criminal proceeding. Am I wrong here?
     
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  3. Jan 1, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't quite understand the question. Is your position that you don't want to review it because it might be right and you don't like the implications?
     
  4. Jan 1, 2016 #3
    I've already agreed to review it, so it's a done deal. I'm just curious as to what import individuals in the community here put on eyewitness testimony. I want to try to get an overview of how more scientifically minded people look at the issue versus those who may be less scientifically minded (like many of my local friends). For example, if you were a juror, say, in an armed robbery case, and the only evidence the prosecution had was one eyewitness who positively identified a suspect and stated that, without a doubt, that suspect committed the crime, how much weight would that carry with you? Now say it was two eyewitnesses that positively identified the suspect, a husband and wife. A third alternative is two eyewitnesses that positively identify the suspect but don't know each other. Would that carry more weight than in the husband and wife scenario?
     
  5. Jan 1, 2016 #4

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    I don't think such factors should influence your review. You agreed to referee this paper. Your report should only depend on this paper. Not what other people - people who haven't even read the paper - might think about its topic.
     
  6. Jan 1, 2016 #5
    Everything affects a review. Most of the papers I review deal with substantive issues dealing with certain properties of brain function. These are easy to comment on. This current paper I'm reviewing is much more subjective. Although my official review will address the internal consistency of the argument, the quality and scrutiny of the experimental design and interpretation of results, there's the cloud of subjectivism that surrounds eyewitness testimony in general. So i'm including this subjectivism in my analysis of the subject by asking peoples opinions on eyewitness testimony.
     
  7. Jan 1, 2016 #6

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    If I got a referee report back that said, "We are rejecting this paper not because of anything in it, but because there is a 'cloud of subjectism' about its subject matter" I would be on the phone to the editor right away. (I am assuming the journal has published on similar topics in the past, because otherwise why would I have sent it there?) I would point out that it is the purpose of the referee to judge the paper in front of him, and not the whole field.
     
  8. Jan 1, 2016 #7
    Well, I don't know if you can separate the "whole field" from the paper put in front of you. What you want to address at the end of the day is the "whole field;" the paper is simply one tool of many to get you there. That said, I indicated in my #5 post that I would not be including anecdotal evidence in my official review of the paper. However, I think I would be remiss if I didn't do in due diligence what I feel would help me in my evaluation. So the authors of this paper (there are 4), will not recieve a message that the paper is being rejected due to a "cloud of subjectivism about it's subject matter."
     
  9. Jan 1, 2016 #8

    WWGD

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    DP: I don't know if this is what you are asking, but the accuracy of eyewitness testimony is seriously in doubt . There are plenty of papers supporting this. Plenty of people who have been convicted on this basis have had their convictions overturned with prejudice. There are many different sources of error, from perceptual issues, to stress, to priming by investigators, to memory issues. There are many examples of confederates (knowingly -innocent people introduced into lineups as a source of control) being designated as the authors of crimes.
    Among many, you have:

    http://www.simplypsychology.org/eyewitness-testimony.html
     
  10. Jan 1, 2016 #9
    Thanks, WWGD, this is what I'm looking for. The paper I am reviewing is using a standardized measure to try to manipulate "autonoetic consciousness" in order to place witnesses mentally back in time of the context of the crime scene before questioning them about the specifics of their memory of the event. This is a very tricky paper to evaluate, but I think important. As much as I distrust eyewitness testimony, sometimes it's all you got, and sometimes it is accurate and can help close a case. But, as you mentioned, it seems as if as it can do as much harm as good. These are the hairs I'm trying to split here.
     
  11. Jan 1, 2016 #10

    WWGD

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    Good luck. Looks like an interesting paper, but I don't envy the burden of deciding on this issue, given how many convictions may be affected by it.
     
  12. Jan 1, 2016 #11

    epenguin

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    I think it is perfectly in order to argue, if you can, your points of view in the public scientific debate in a scientific meeting, or in a review of the subject you might publish, or in the letters columns of Nature, Science, Scientific American, or here, etc.

    I have found it perfectly objectionable :oldmad: and an abuse when somebody thinks his arguable point of view is something to be argued out in the course of deciding and as a condition of publishability of scientific work. (If it is not published significant argument cannot take place.).
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
  13. Jan 1, 2016 #12
    It looks like all you're being asked to do is focus on this one aspect. Why were you, in particular, thought to be the person for this task?
     
  14. Jan 1, 2016 #13
    I have no idea, it's certainly not for my qualifications as a criminalist, or criminologist, or whatever they call it. I'm a cognitive neuroscientist. My guess is that the other more esteemed members of the editorial board declined to review it, so I got stuck with it.
     
  15. Jan 1, 2016 #14
    If the paper is about the reliability of eyewitness testimony itself, then the facts are quite clear about the fact that eyewitness testimony is unreliable. That's a done deal, no question at all.

    Maybe the paper's more interested in why eyewitness testimony is unreliable, or how eyewitness testimony procedures could be altered to improve their reliability?
     
  16. Jan 1, 2016 #15
    I think that's the upshot of the article. I just got the job a couple days ago so I haven't read the whole thing, but I think this may be an attempt to attach some scientific viability to eyewitness testimony. So I'm going to evaluate that argument on it's merits. If I think they make a good point, I'l support that. If I think it's BS, I'll tell them so.
     
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