In defense of PNAS

John Lazzaro lazzaro at boom.CS.Berkeley.EDU
Thu Dec 31 15:11:38 EST 1992


> The idea of privileged
>access to publication in a prestigious journal based on membership of some
>hierarchy seems to conflict with the proposed first article.  PNAS is a collec-
>tive platform for the scientific viewpoints of some senior scientists, but not
>others. Sounds very un-American!
>                                Sincerely, Don Forsdyke (Discussion Leader)

Then you must really hate edited books. Imagine, a publisher lets a
distinguished person (just one! not every distinguished person is the
entire field!) pick a group of authors based on the person's own
prejudicial choice of the best science in a field (imagine that!
making decisions based on personal taste!).  In some cases, such a
book ends up being the definitive reference for a field for many
years, precisely because control is in the hands of a senior
individual with a vision for a field. Scientific publications are all
about documentation, communication, and inspiration -- documents exist
to serve the readers, not the authors.

I am arguing for diversity -- science is much better served by a
plurality of "publication rules" than a single standard.  Both
"strong-editor" and "weak-editor" publications should be allowed to
flourish, and PNAS is a specific example of a distributed
"strong-editor" format.  I resent making certain styles of
publications "illegal" -- censorship of form is just as pernicious as
censorship of content. 



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