Peerless problems 1

April 30, 2004

Should pieces in The Times Higher be peer-reviewed? Academics generally accept that the process, at minimum, provides a basic certification of accuracy and, at best, substantially improves the standard of the published material. Some recent submissions seem badly in need of this.

Richard Drayton informs us that "the Mongol invention of the stirrup allowed them to fight with both hands and dominate Eurasia" (Features, April 23). I know little medieval history but I believe that this is wrong on many counts, not least because stirrups were in regular use by European cavalry more than 600 years before the Mongol campaigns against Eastern Europe took place (1221-22 and 1236-42AD). One of us is clearly in error. Peer review would tell us which.

Mo Dodson used the observation of decreased stature in mesolithic skeletons compared with palaeolithic ones to imply that "farming causes starvation" (Letters, January 30). Since farming had not developed at the time he refers to, it is rather odd to blame it.

Dodson is seemingly also now an expert on the science of genetically modified crops (Letters, April 23), informing us that the scientific community is "sharply divided about them. As a member of that community, I can say from personal experience that divisions within it are certainly "sharp" but the split is by no means as even as his letter implies.

If a molecular cell biologist can say no more, how can Dodson, a lecturer in media studies (PhD candidate Goldsmiths College London, expected 2004), possibly claim accurate knowledge on this highly technical issue?

Richard Faragher
School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences
Brighton University

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