Peer Review Anonymity on Trial

U27111 at U27111 at
Sun Jan 14 05:02:03 EST 1996

gregoryh at (Gregory R. Harriman) wrote on 13 Jan 1996
22:43:25 GMT:

>In article <96013.004838U27111 at>,
><U27111 at> wrote:

>> Ahhh... we are back to that again!
>> I really can't imagine a month going by without debating this
>>issue yet again?

>     If it bothers you to have to debate this issue again, I'm

No... actually it doesn't.

I apologize... this is one of those times when writing something
looses it's meaning.  I should've put a :) at the end because I was
truly smiling when I wrote it.  Really!  Honestly!

But, no, I really don't mind debating like this again... it's just
hard keeping such a serious attitude all the time and I was just
attempting to lighten it up some???

>However, I was simply responding to the statement in Berezin's
>article which started this thread stating "there is indeed
>relatively LITTLE progress coming from biomedical establishment".
>Since IMHO that is an incorrect statement, I felt obliged to

Sure... and since I tend to feel the opposite - I felt a need to
reply as well.

And I have to agree with Alex on this one...

We are all very opinionated on this subject!

>> 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 good.

>     You are entitled to your opinion.

Thank you.

So are you.

>Nonetheless, I doubt most people believe, as you apparently do,
>that the majority of scientists are corrupt, cheating, greedy or

Well... to be honest... I don't know if I can technically say it is
the *majority* of the community?

The majority of those I have worked with and been around in the
past 7 years... yes!

A good majority of the stuff in AIDS research that I have read in
the past few years... yes!

And the fact that Dr. Robert Gallo is still going strong... and
that no self-policing has taken place to date... that very few in
the community are willing to stand up and stop accepting what is
clearly unacceptable behavior on his part?

This is a reflection upon the entire community as a whole when they
ignore such matters as they do.  Thus... yes again!

And then on the other hand... the best I have worked with over the
years have left the field altogether.

Thus... want impression would this give one?

>> 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?

>     You do a disservice to many scientists who are interested in
>discovery and improving the health and well-being of people.  Is
>it a crime because they also have to worry about where they are
>going to get money to do research and to live on?

Science is doing a terrible disservice to the people they are
attempting to help... when worrying about money *overshadows*
worrying about the quality work?  That was my point.  And yes, in
many cases... it can very well be a crime, depending upon exactly
how they solve such problems?

And yes, it's up to us to fix this so it is not the case. That the
*best* in our field get rewarded with monies and the worst gets
phased out... leaving more monies for those who are indeed the best
at what they do.

Thus, good labs wouldn't have to worry about monies over quality of

>If you have any better ideas of how scientists can get the money
>to do this, I'd sure be interested in hearing them.

I've said it over and over again in this thread.

Standardize the field... certify techs and PhDs, and accredited

And it shouldn't cost all that much more money to set this up in
the first place.

We already have existing organizations/societies which can take on
this added role.  Of assuring that laboratories meet certain
criteria and standards and that peoples are certified for what it
is they are doing.

Then... and only then, could such labs even apply for monies.

Paperwork for processing grants should be cut down (because having
to do all that describing of facilities and equipment would just be
'assumed' (instead of presently just ignored anyway)... that is if
they are indeed accredited in the first place?

And then grants could be processed based upon actually ideas and
who has the best ones for such projects.... instead of on a who you
know bases.

It's just a dream I know... but it is a step in the right

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

>     I'm sorry you've had such a negative experience in science.

Excuse me... that's 'experiences' - don't forget the 's'.  :)

>Still, not everyone has had uniformly bad experiences.  Some
>scientists even know how to do cell counts.

Point me in the direction... I'll go there and work!

For I've been looking for a while now... to little to no avail!

>> 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.

>     And any half-way intelligent person would realize that
>science has always been a dialectic process.  Look at scientific
>controversies in previous eras: spontaneous generation
>(Lamarkians) versus those who believed in reproduction, or the
>Darwinians who believed in natural selection versus those who
>believed that evolution resulted when organisms acquired new
>traits from their environment.

???  Sorry... bad analogy here.  Very bad.

For there in no way on the heaven or this earth you can compare
spontaneous generation and Darwinian theories to that of a drug

Not even close Greg.

And don't you dare ignore the people factor like this!

That there are (were) living, breathing human beings which depended
upon such studies for quality of life verse quantity of life
issues... no, I won't allow you to rationalize this down!

Just plain unacceptable!

And it's exactly such attitudes which *allows* this community to
support giving a known mutagen to fetuses and new born babies in
which the HIV status is still unknown.

No!  This is not an issue which is even comparable to spontaneous
generation and Darwinian lines of thinking!

>No doubt, many of the same negative attributes (greed,
>selfishness, incompetence, etc) which you endow current scientists
>with existed in these previous eras.

Name me a previously existing drug (or theory for that matter) from
those eras which made over 1 billion dollars in a span of a few

No, we are talking a totally new era here, with bigger stakes and
new rules.

Biotechnology companies weren't even a leader in the stock market
back then (or even on the stock market for that matter?)!

>Still, science continues to make progress despite that.

Again... that depends upon the definition of progress I guess?

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

>     This may come as a surprise, but people were dying of
>diseases long before you and I were born.  And, people will still
>be dying from diseases long after you and I are gone.

No... no surprise.  For my family members have been dying of cancer
long before I was born.

My grandfather died of cancer back in 1947.

Nixon began the war on cancer in 1972.  And twenty years
uncle (like his father before him) dies of cancer.

And just this past year my mother died of cancer.

And I, (or one of my sisters or cousins) will probably die of
cancer one day? well as some of our off-spring!

And between my grandfather and my uncle and mother - the only
difference was better knowledge of what to stay away from (ie., not
to allow them to go through more pain and suffering as guinea pigs
for fairly useless studies)... and of course hospice (which was
probably the *best* development in the past 20 years!)

You would think that after so many years (and a declared war on the
disease)... that we would have learned more (assuming there has
indeed been progress in science?)?

>Because scientists and doctors don't have god-like powers and
>don't know everything is hardly an indictment of science or

But we fail to learn from our mistakes (or aren't even allowed to
in most cases)... and the fact that they don't care to raise the
standards or caliber of the work produced, is an indictment!

We accept was is unacceptable laboratory practices for the sake of
speed, apathy or just plain laziness.  That is an indictment!

And we accept those to remain in our community who knowingly does
fraud or misconduct.  That is an indictment!

And you can't sit here and tell me this all doesn't add up to
slowing down progress in science!

>> 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.

>     In fact, recent events should give reason for pause when
>advocating that the government, regulatory agencies or other forms
>of big brother are the solution.  Try reading the January issue of
>Nature Medicine.  It talks about how only now after several years,
>has Imanishi-Kari gotten a chance to challenge in court some of
>the previous accusations made against her by the ORI and Senator
>Dingell.  ....

??? The ORI wasn't in existence several years ago.

>I don't know the true facts in Imanishi-Kari's case but sometimes
>people get unfairly accused by people who are more interested in
>condemning than in trying to find the truth.

And you made my point for me.

Self-policing is a myth... nobody, within the scientific community
cared to look into this and thus left it for those outside the
community to determine.

And I'll try and look this case up (since I am not familiar with
it)... but you failed to mention the actual outcome of this case
(and not just the press releases of what her lawyers are
claiming?... remember, OJs lawyers *claimed* an awful lot of things
as fact too?)

And I'm not saying who is right or wrong in this case... just that
science has now become no different than any other political debate
(or even legal debate)... *instead* of scientific debates.

In all you wrote about this Imanishi-Kari's case... after several
years now... did her original data prove to be true?

For that is really the bottom line in *any* case.

Gallo can say whatever he wants too... but it will *never* change
the fact that his virus was genetically identical to the French's.

Thus... it was either due to sloppiness (ie. cross-contamination)
or out and out fraud (ie., stole it).  Either way... not the
highest caliber of work one would want from such a person to run an
entire institute?

Think about it.

And look back at this women's work and see if it proved accurate
over the years?  For that will tell me much more than any political

>     I don't need to trust you on this one.  I've done research at
>three other scientific institutions besides Baylor, including two
>in California and the NIH.  I've seen more than you think,
>including examples of just about everything you have described.
>I'm as disgusted by it as you are and I'm as interested in getting
>rid of it as you are.  However, I know from personal experience
>there are a lot of good people in science also. And they are
>conscientiously working hard and ethically to accomplish
>something worthwhile.

And still receive funding today?  More funding then those who do
the other type of work product we have discussed?

>You don't help those people by unequivocally condemning the whole
>scientific enterprise.

No... just the system.

>> 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.

>     One would have to conclude from this statement that either
>your whole experience in science has been uniformly negative or
>you have a real talent for seeing only the negative.

No... I've had some good experiences.  But years ago... not too
recently.  And those I've had good experiences with... for the most
part... have pretty much left the field (out of disgust as well).

And I think I will agree with you on my eye of things.  For it is
truly amazing how much one will accept when just chugging along in
such a career... until you actually see someone you love,
literally, die in your arms (and helpless to do anything about it!)

You start to sit back and think about what you did accept going on
all around you... remembering the advice given to you years ago -
of just developing tunnel vision and to ignore all the slop and
garbage going on around you (with co-workers and such) and only
concern yourself with your own work (and that that is done as well
as possible and as accurate as you can make)... and in collecting
a paycheck.

When you have to actually watch some one suffer and die... this
just isn't good enough anymore.

And when you think about all the other people in the world (40
million by the year 2000?) who will be going through such things as
well... again, it's just not acceptable anymore.

We *must* do better Greg... we have to.  It's just that simple.

>Either way, its unfortunate.

No its not... I've been thinking about this a lot lately... and i
think I prefer my eyes open to that of living in a self-made,
idealist, dream world.

For maybe when I do find that job where I will be allowed to do
what I have been taught to do (and to do it properly)... maybe
knowing what I now know, will help me to be an even better research

I don't know... time will tell.

>Regardless, the few people out there who are trying to do good
>science will carry on.

??? Yeah Alex, I agree.... you got him on this one!

I think if we can just change his diet to nothing but chocolate
bars and keep him awake for a few days... we just may be able to
brainwash him into totally speak our language?  Maybe?  :)


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