Boo! Peer review at the Fraser Institute

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Yesterday The Sixth Estate had a piece on a topic that usually generates a lot of discussion and controversy around these parts: The Fraser Institute’s Annual Report Card on Schools. This caught my eye:

As usual, five of the reviewers of this report are actually dead, some others are in their 90s, and one of them is also the author, a conflict of interest if ever there was one.

I thought the dead people part was kinda of snort-worthy. Funnily enough at that moment on Twitter a reporter and local politician were having a conversation about the Report Card and I sort of interjected myself with a “Here’s a fun factoid…” kind of thing. I didn’t think anyone would pay attention to me. But…as things sometimes do on Twitter, tweets get retweeted and soon take on a life of their own until all of a sudden a reporter from one of the major local dailies direct messages me saying “my list” is out of date, and to phone them (I was just trying to make a funny! Really!).

A friend pointed out to me that maybe the reporter meant this list on the Fraser Institute website, where it is marked “Editorial Advisory Board Members (1974 – 2008)”. So I double-checked the 2011 Report Card and, yes, on the last page are listed the members of the “Editorial Advisory Board”. And yes, 5 are indicated as being deceased: Friedrich A. Hayek (The Messiah! The Messiah!), George Stigler, Edwin G. West, H.G. Johnson, and the appropriately named F.G. Pennance. So if that list is no longer current then the Fraser Institute should update their publications. Their mistake.

At this point I was coming to the conclusion the “Editorial Advisory Board” was simply a sort of Fraser Institute Hall of Fame/Legion of Honour sort of thing but then…it is listed under “Peer Review”. Hmm…so I try to find what they actually do…

The Institute also maintains an Editorial Advisory Board, a panel of scholars from Canada, the United States and Europe. The panel is the final arbiter in the Institute’s peer review process.

I guess some of that arbitration is done with a Ouija board.

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5 comments

  1. Sixth Estate

    I’m sorry you were sent through the ringer without my support. Yes, that Editorial Advisory Board notice appears in the report. Obviously whoever was complaining to you couldn’t be bothered to, you know, learn to read.

  2. Pingback: The Sixth Estate » Fraser Institute Doesn’t Realize So Many of its Own Editors are Dead?
  3. spartikus

    I actually did phone the reporter and pointed them to the PDF of the 2011 Report Card. They replied later that they were thinking about doing a story about this, but since the list is “out of date” decided not too.

    I kind of think the dead people are still on the new list. While amusing at the end of the day I don’t think that’s really an important issue (if they want to honour Saint Friedrich, so be it). What is an issue, and which you pointed out, is none of these people are education experts. And, of course, the conflict of interest of having a report author sitting on this body (if it does any real work). Etc.

    That should be a question the media should raise…

  4. Sixth Estate

    The problem with it being an “out of date” list is that it’s presented as though it’s actually doing real work. Obviously at least the dead people are just there as “honourary” members.” But what about the living ones? Their failure to update the list suggests it just gets tacked on by rote, to add credibility. So that’s why it matters.

    The more important point, as you say, is that even if they WERE all valid members, you’d still basically have a bunch of economists (and a couple of historians) critiquing K-12 education policy.