A convincing argument, but I don’t agree.

Since my last post, I defended my PhD, left Boulder, Colorado, drove to Maryland via St. Louis and Wheeling WV, and began a ten-week fellowship at the National Adademy of Sciences. Currently I’m helping out with what’s known as the “Prospering study”.

The program has an extensive orientation on policy-making and how the NAS works. One presenter was talking about the peer-review process each Academy study goes through. Apparently a reviewer can disagree with the report’s conclusions, but still accept that it makes a convincing argument. Huh? I asked how that could be: If the argument was truly convincing, how could the reviewer disagree with it? Wouldn’t he be convinced?

I understand that people do not always completely articulate their reasons for holding a point of view, and hence could find an argument convincing, but still hold our because of unresolved and/or unarticulated conflicts. Often our intuition about these, or mine at least, is quite useful, and can be articlulated with some work. Certainly it’s worth the time to do this with a National Academies Report. If anything, perhaps the reviewer can agree with a narrower version of the “convincing” conclusions.

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