Peer Review Anonymity on Trial

Keith Robison robison at
Tue Jan 16 02:13:32 EST 1996

U27111 at wrote:

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

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

: Standardize the field... certify techs and PhDs, and accredited
: labs!

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

Look at what is already regulated in research labs: nuclear
and toxic waste handling, biohazards, etc.  Look how many
hours go into complying with those regulations.  Look how
many people are employed _solely_ to monitor these regulations.
Now multiply this by electrophoresis, dialysis, chromatography,
PCR, electrophoresis, immunochemistry, etc., etc.  

Now how are you going to enforce it?  How do you guarantee
that an "uncertified" person doesn't run a gel?

Hell, I'd _love_ it if nobody could run BLAST without a 
license -- not only would it guarantee me work, but it would
prevent a lot of silly statements in the literature (whatever
horrors you have seen -- remember, in my field I can find
them in the _published_ data).

Trying to certify research would impose a huge new bureaucracy,
with an attached cost.  Worse, it would probably have the
effect of Prohibition -- raise the level of general disregard
for regulations.  

Remember -- one of the most talked-about papers in the
last year involved PCR performed by a _mathematician_.
Raising new barriers of entry to a field is not a sure-fire
way to improve it.

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

Imanishi-Kari's data was based on unique reagents which
have long been consumed -- in a certain sense, her
experiments can never quite be replicated.

Independent replication of the conclusions of her work
(last I heard) remained a controversial subject.

If you want a case which illustrates how messy it can be
to deal with borderline science, her case would be a 
good place to start.

Keith Robison
Harvard University
Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology
Department of Genetics / HHMI

robison at 

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