Peer Review Anonymity on Trial

Ferland Louis H. ferlandl at ERE.UMontreal.CA
Sun Jan 14 02:46:48 EST 1996

On 13 Jan 1996, Gregory R. Harriman wrote:

> Date: 13 Jan 1996 22:43:25 GMT
> From: Gregory R. Harriman <gregoryh at>
> To: bioforum at
> Subject: Re: Peer Review Anonymity on Trial
> 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 sorry. 
> 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 respond. 
> > 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.  Nonetheless, I doubt most people
> believe, as you apparently do, that the majority of scientists are
> corrupt, cheating, greedy or incompetent.
> > 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?  If you have any better ideas of how
> scientists can get the money to do this, I'd sure be interested in hearing
> them.
> > 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.  Still,
> not everyone has had uniformly bad experiences.  Some scientists even know
> how to do cell counts.
> > 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.
>      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.  No doubt, many of the same
> negative attributes (greed, selfishness, incompetence, etc) which you
> endow current scientists with existed in these previous eras.  Still,
> science continues to make progress despite that. 
> > 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.  Because scientists and doctors don't have
> god-like powers and don't know everything is hardly an indictment of
> science or medicine. 
> > 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.  For those not familiar with the case, she
> was previously accused of falsifying experimental data in a paper that was
> published in Cell several years ago.  It turns out that her lawyers were
> able to find evidence that the Secret Service (which investigated her) and
> a member of Senator Dingell's committee either (nice interpretation)
> botched the investigation or (not so nice interpretation) conspired in an
> attempt to make Dr. Imanishi-Kari look guilty.  Anyone who followed this
> case knows that Senator Dingell and his staff (for political purposes
> perhaps?) went out of their way to discredit her.  The sword cuts both
> ways.  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.
> > 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!).
>      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.  You don't help those people by unequivocally
> condemning the whole scientific enterprise.
> > 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.
>      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.  Either way, its unfortunate. 
> Regardless, the few people out there who are trying to do good science
> will carry on.
> Greg Harriman

We sure will. Thanks, Greg, for yet another good crop of comments and 

Dr. Louis H. Ferland
Centre de Recherche, Hotel-Dieu de Montreal
Dept de Nutrition, Universite de Montreal
Phone: (514) 843-2757     FAX: (514) 843-2719

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