Reviewing manuscripts

Thu Mar 10 19:33:02 EST 1994

Researchers at NIH have recently been required to attend
'Scientific Integrity Seminars'. Among the topics discussed
were various types of unethical (as opposed to illegal)
behaviors. Unlike fraud, plagiarism, etc. many of these
activities fall into a gray area. One particular discussion
centered around reviewing manuscripts and it is here that
I'm interested in peoples' viewpoints.

Most manuscripts for review are marked with some variation
on: 'Not to be duplicated or used in any way'. However, what
constitutes use? Consider the following situations:

1. The manuscript is related to work you are doing and its
content shows that an experiment you were planning to do
would be a waste of time. Must you do it anyway?

2. The manuscript is not directly related to your field but
its content gives you insight into a problem you face in
your own work. Do you have to wait until the paper is
published (assuming it is accepted) before proceeding
with the experiment it suggests?

These are two of many possible scenarios. It is not possible
for us to forget we ever saw a manuscript, and the people
best qualified to review a manuscript are those most
likely to have a conflict of interest. How can such problems
best be handled?

C. Graham Clark, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases,
National Institutes of Health,
Bethesda, MD 20892

Ph.: 301-496-4740
FAX: 301-402-4941
e-mail: cge at

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