FX, JAMA... Peer-review

U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu
Fri Dec 8 21:12:30 EST 1995

Alex and I have been discussing this thread in personal email.  And we
both decided it might be interesting to share our comments with the NG.

Thus, Alex sent me:

On Thu, 7 Dec 1995 U27111 at UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU wrote:

> The breakfast time show on the cable channel FX today showed
> something which just about every mother everywhere knows... but
> apparently the editors (and peer-reviewers) of JAMA does not?
> That sugar does indeed cause hyper-activity in children!
> They didn't give the direct reference... but according to a doctor
> on the show this morning... JAMA had published an article this week
> which states that sugar has no effect on the hyper-activity of
> children.
> To test this premise... the breakfast time show decided to run
> their own experiment (using the scientific method).  They had two
> children who had not yet eaten breakfast... one was feed a high
> protein breakfast of sausage and eggs, and the other one a high
> sugar breakfast of cereal and donuts.
> Within 15 mins. the high sugar child was running around and
> screaming; while the high protein child played nicely with her toys
> and drawing.
> There was a definite (obvious) difference in these two children's
> behavior!
> Another interesting thing they showed (at the end of about an hour
> and a half) was both children's drawings before and after
> breakfast.
> Both children, before breakfast, drew drawings which were focused
> and detailed.  But after breakfast... the high sugar breakfast
> child's drawing was just a scribble of colors; where the high
> protein breakfast child's drawings remained detailed and focus.
> So...  as the doctor in the program pointed out... many would
> criticize this short study because it wasn't done as a blind study
> (we knew which child was which and there may have been bias).
> But my god... the difference was so pronounced - I really don't see
> how that would matter.  It certainly shows something is going on...
> and it's not what JAMA reports!
> About the only question this FX breakfast time analysis failed to
> go into was... exactly who paid for this study presented in JAMA
> this week?  Could such a study (paper) have been funded by the
> sugar industry?
> How could the people at JAMA publish such an obvious false premise?
> What does this tell us about the process of peer review and
> publication?

Thanks for this posting.

I don't know about children's hyperactiviy upon sugar intake,
but I do know for sure that  when my energy is low or I am
tired, a cup of POLITICALLY INCORRECT coffee with a spoon of an
EVEN MORE POLITICALLY INCORRECT sugar does help me a lot. If
I woulld be subjected to a peer review on this matter, it would
undoubtedly conclude that I am wrong and suffer hallucination.
This is not surprisingly, as peer review can perform only two

 (1) rubber-stamp the trivial and/or already known,
 (2) to pronounce that "it can't happen" for anything
 new and/or unknown.

Yours is a nice illustration that the peer review in
(almost) all cases is pretty useless and very often is directly
oppressive. Its prime role is to maintain the power structure
of the scientific "establishement", to induce conformism
and eradicate the originality. Progress of science happens
IN-SPITE of the peer review, because human creativity can
(fortunately) sometime find the ways around the peer review
and establishment barbedwires.

Alex Berezin

> And isn't it sad when a cable channel breakfast show can use the
> scientific method better then the publishers of JAMA?
> Just some food for thought,
> -Kathy

And I replied:

>Thanks for this posting.

No problem... I thought it was a hoot.

>This is not surprisingly, as peer review can perform only two

> (1) rubber-stamp the trivial and/or already known,
> (2) to pronounce that "it can't happen" for anything
> new and/or unknown.

>Yours is a nice illustration that the peer review in
>(almost) all cases is pretty useless and very often is directly
>oppressive. Its prime role is to maintain the power structure
>of the scientific "establishement", to induce conformism
>and eradicate the originality.

I don't know about that?  I tend to mostly agree with you... but I
think that this is a better definition for JAMA, New England
Journal of Medicine, and Science... to tell the scientific
community what to think about various debates and what is
mainstream and that's what you should be thinking as well?

For these tend to be the top American publications and the hardest
to get an article published in.

When one compares the writing between Science and Nature (our
European counter-part)... you can see a great contrast in how
things are presented.  Nature tends to be analytical in their
presentations... showing both sides of an issue (or debate); where
Science basically is telling the scientists what *they* think and
that's what you should be thinking type mentality.

And as for peer-review... I think you are right on the money when
you said it serves to maintain the power structure.  And how much
big monies is involved is really pretty sickening these days.

I really wouldn't be surprised to find if this JAMA article was
indeed funded by the sugar industry...  we see the silicon breast
implant industry paying doctors (and in one case an editor!) to
publish articles on how supposedly 'safe' they are (especially in
the months preceding the court case for their law suits)... we see
pharmaceutical companies which uses peer-review and publications to
hawk their drugs.... etc. etc.

I was actually reading somewhere that the US judicial system has
determined that just because a scientific article was peer-reviewed
and published... that doesn't mean the information contained is an
excepted scientific standard.  Thus, in court cases, it's up to the
judge in the case to determine which of the published studies would
be admissible in his court of law (I believe in most cases, it's
called a Kelly-Frye hearing?).

Isn't that really the saddest thing you ever heard?  You think that
would tell the scientific community something?

Oh well.

>Progress of science happens IN-SPITE of the peer review, because
>human creativity can (fortunately) sometime find the ways around
>the peer review and establishment barbedwires.

But my god, how all this political jockeying around wastes so much
time and energy... especially in the AIDS and cancer community!

We just don't have the time to waste on all this BS.

For example... this JAMA article.  This was a very simple case to

But what about the use of AZT in HIV+ pregnant women and their

The European AIDS establishment said it's a bad idea, most people
who have followed the rise and fall of AZT in general knows it's a
bad idea.  About the only people who don't think it's a bad idea
are the FDA and Burroughs-Wellcome Company (now Galaxco?) [who BTW
was suffering a 24% drop in sales of AZT before 'publishing' this
particular study].

It'll be just like before with the general use of AZT... it took
years before the Concorde study came out... it may take even longer
to show that the 75% of those babies who wouldn't get HIV from
their mothers anyway (as long as they didn't come out via the birth
canal and weren't breast feed) will get some type of leukemia or
cancer from being given AZT!

These children don't have the luxury of time as more and more each
day gets exposed to this type of treatment.

I don't know Alex... it's one thing to debate the issues like we
have in this NG - but it's really another to see just how all this
politics effects human lives.

It just really gets to me sometimes.

Thanks for your comments... as usual, I really enjoy reading them
(since they are so similar to my own way of thinking).  :-)

Take care and see you on the internet.


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