Nurses for Safe Renewable Power

Looking for a healthy environment for everyone

Audit of supposedly peer-reviewed paper has surprising results

Ontario writer Brett Horner has conducted an audit of a single peer-reviewed paper in an effort to cross-check the meaning of “peer review” and whether it can in fact guarantee accuracy and reliability of the conclusions.

Guess what?

The peer review really needed a peer review.

We’ve already discussed the fact that peer review is a mug’s game in many cases; authors can simply run a paper by some friends and get their signoff on it.

In the case of Horner’s audit, it looks like to so-called “peers” may not have even read the paper…certainly they didn’t catch some of the problems, like the fact that wind turbine noise wasn’t even expressly mentioned in the documents referenced.

Horner selected the 2011 paper by Knopper and Ollson, already discussed in these pages as having come to the incredible conclusion that sure, maybe some people are upset by the turbine noise but that with a little psychotherapy they could get over it. Knopper and Ollson also conclude, also incredibly, that the health of a few individuals is a worthy sacrifice when you consider that wind turbines will save hundreds of lives from the air pollution produced by coal-fired power plants. (The plants that today are producing about 2% of Ontario’s electricity and could be turned OFF right now.)

We have other reasons to question anyone’s use of Knopper and Ollson’s work as proof that wind turbine noise is not harmful. Knopper’s area of expertise is environmental toxins, not noise or infrasound. We were in attendance at a public meeting hosted by a wind power developer and Loren Knopper was asked by an audience member to provide a definition of the medical term “annoyance.” He couldn’t. And yet, annoyance–which really means severe mental distress and stress–is a common result of exposure to wind turbine noise and vibration.

Anyway, Horner’s paper is worth reading, and very useful to question what “peer review” really means. The Registered Nurses Association could certainly do with a second look, given their propensity to rely on dubious documents–even news releases–as reliable documents for sources of information.

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