They all know each other, and there is great mutual backscratching taking the place of critical evaluation.
“In small clannish fields like climate science the rule is now not peer review but pal review.
They all know each other, and there is great mutual backscratching taking the place of critical evaluation.”
You are absolutely spot on, and there are a fair number of ‘clannish fields’. Further, the ‘connections’ go beyond reviewers etc. The web of connections includes insiders at the NIH and other government agencies. Insiders in positions of influence have a lot of ways to ensure favorable reviews and to direct grant money to their friends etc.