Peer Review Anonymity on Trial

U27111 at U27111 at
Sat Jan 13 01:48:38 EST 1996

On 12 Jan 1996 18:34:53 GMT gregoryh at (Gregory R.
Harriman) wrote:

[personal attack deleted]

>     To put some perspective on the issues and contrary to his
>assertions, there has been substantial progress in biomedical
>research in the last 20-30 years.

Ahhh... we are back to that again!

I really can't imagine a month going by without debating this issue
yet again?

>No one who is willing to be objective could disagree with
>that statement.

Actually... I think it's a very debatable issue.  And, I also think
of myself as a pretty objective person (in general?)?
[Qualification... when unknowns are involved at least]

But we have a very long history/track record to go by here.

And to be very blunt... it is my personal opinion, that more
progress has been made due to ideas stolen from science fiction and
fortuitous accidents... then by some nobel pursuit for the greater

And I think that is the point Alex has been trying to make?

Just think... what if the majority of people in science actually
worked towards solving problems and discovering unknowns instead of
where their next grant is coming from and how many journals they
have published in this year?

What truly *great* progress can we then make in the next 10 years
under such attitudes!  Maybe even find cures for diseases which
really works.

>Do we know everything about how the human body works?  Of
>course not, it is incredibly complex!  We still know relatively
>little about even a single cell, let alone the whole human body.

And many labs I have worked in don't even know how to do a proper
cell count...

[I think we maybe starting to repeat ourselves here?]

>Given our current state of knowledge, in relation to what remains
>to be understood, it should come as no surprise that we still
>can't cure many diseases. would think that after 15 years, we would definitively
know whether AZT actually works or not???

Don't you think?

Instead, we have dueling studies.

And AZT is not alone in this... there are many drugs in which
contradicting studies come out.

And any half-way intelligent person should be able to recognize
that such dueling studies aren't a factor of a poor understanding
of complex issues.... but more due to intense competition at it's
*highest* level.

>That does not mean "LITTLE" progress has been made.  It simply
>means there is still a long way to go.  We're in a marathon, not
>a 100 meter dash.

Unfortunately... many sick and dying people aren't able to make it
to the end of this marathon.

And taking short cuts through the park will not only NOT get us
there any faster... but will actually make it a much longer
distance to the actual finish line (in the long run).

>Nonetheless, the presence of a single lawsuit hardly
>constitutes evidence of "a deep moral crisis of the present
>research enterprise".

Well... here we have the two schools of thought nicely displayed.

On one hand... we have the 'tip of the iceberg' mentality.

And on the other hand we have the 'rare event' mentality.

And one thing I have learned when studying such debates... the true
answer usually lies somewhere between the too extremes.

>In any social institution or activity there will always be
>people who try to take unfair advantage or cheat.  While this is
>unavoidable, we should certainly do everything possible to
>discourage and punish those that step over the line.


Self-policing has been proven to be a myth.

The ORI is generally ineffective, unless of course the person cited
for misconduct 'agrees' to abide by their ruling.

The current popular (mainstream) idea of making more courses in
ethics available (while its a beginning and a place to start, as my
friend Mr. Tivol would say)... it's still like spitting to put out
a fire, IMHO.

And we have a system for funding which actually promotes such
behavior, in that there is intense competition for a dwindling pool
of monies.

You speak a nice language... but as that old lady in the Wendy's
commercials use to say... "Where's the meat?"

>To the extent that such inappropriate behavior occurs in science,
>it should be condemned and policies implemented to prevent it.

Again, where's the meat?

Gallo is a perfect example... $24 million and growing... and

We are actually awarding such behavior.

> Still, the fact that this type of misconduct occurs (as it always
>will under any system) hardly constitutes proof that the whole
>system is corrupt.

But it's yet another straw on the camel's back... which will indeed
break one day.

Try looking at the whole picture and not just from your very nice
view point over their at Baylor (because that is truly not the
norm... trust me on this one!).

There is a new breed of scientist out there practicing a new type
of science... The Science of the 90's - and it's not all about
nobel and great pursuits for the greater good of all mankind.

It's about self-interest, ego, greed and politics.  Competition
instead of cooperation.  And quantity over quality of work.

With all due respect sir, the whole system
(funding/grants/APR/patents) *is* a breeding ground for
corruption... and the honor system just isn't good enough anymore.

Thank you for your time,


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