In defense of PNAS

John Lazzaro lazzaro at boom.CS.Berkeley.EDU
Sat Jan 2 14:16:57 EST 1993


In article <93002.085212FORSDYKE at QUCDN.QueensU.CA> <FORSDYKE at QUCDN.QueensU.CA> writes:
>
>Here the publisher and the distinguished person he choses
>make their choices from the entire field of distinguished
>scientists, not the particular group of distinguished
>scientists who happen to be members of a particular club.


In an edited book, there is one (or a few) "distinguished persons" who
are making their choices from the entire field of science. In PNAS,
there are several hundred "distinguished persons" who are making their
choices from the entire field of science. That is the only difference;
in both cases, the editors are free to solicit or accept contributions
from everyone. For your statement to be correct, PNAS would have to 
only publish contributions *authored* by the members. 

Your original problem with PNAS was that members said they had
"promised" papers to other authors, or to their own lab, and thus were
not interested in your publication. These members were classic "strong
editors"; they wanted to express a point of view with their pages, and
your research didn't serve that purpose. The members had the entire
field to choose from, and chose the research they wanted to, and it
didn't include yours. I see nothing discriminatory about this, this is
the role of a strong editor. 

>
>The readers are best served by unbiased access as possible to
>the best authors in the field, who should NOT be selected on
>the basis of [...]
>

You have no right to enforce your view of how a publisher's readers
are best served; these views belong in a position paper, not in a
enforced document.  If I want to publish a journal that only accepts
articles from female anthropologists, or department chairs, or
scientists that are also creationists, I should be able to do
this.  A journal of this type will have a deep point of view, just as
the National Review or The Nation has a deep point of view about
US government and politics.

>
>Censorship means deciding on the form and/or content of
>some form of publication, based NOT on the merits of the publication per se,
>but on the perception of what is "good" for the reader.

By definition, a "strong editor" makes content decisions for the good
of the reader, this is the job of an editor.  You are indeed promoting
censorship, by telling PNAS (and every edited book published) how they
are supposed to run their publication. 



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