ABT Reviews

David Hershey dh321 at excite.com
Fri Jul 9 18:10:26 EST 1999

Ross, I agree with nearly all your comments. 

On the idea of a review panel, it might not need more than 2 or 3
botanists if they were willing to do a large number of manuscripts. In
order to do a thorough manuscript review, I often go to the library and
look up articles on the topic. One major weakness of many botany
teaching manuscripts is that they do not consult the botany teaching
literature to see what others have done. Although scattered, the botany
teaching literature is quite extensive if you include articles, texts,
and lab manuals. I collected about 40 plant physiology lab manuals
dating back to the 1890s and Francis Darwin's manual. Darwin's manual
contained some experiments that would still be useful today. A goodly
portion of the newer literature can be searched online using the ERIC

I realize a lot of the literature is not obtainable by many teachers
other than by interlibrary loan. It might be useful to make at least
botany teaching articles more widely available on CDs.

I think that science's peer review process is not enough given its
haphazard nature and frequent failures. Scientists should be more open
to criticism of published articles and not consider them "cast in stone"
if they survive the peer review process. ABT certainly deserves credit
in that regard. Given the key importance of peer review in science and
accuracy of published articles, I have often wondered why the paid
editorial staff of many science journals consists of people with degrees
in journalism or English, not science. If peer review is so key to
science, why is it a volunteer activity?

You might be giving Jerry Baker too much credit on pseudoscience of
plants and music. I think the bestseller "The Secret Life of Plants",
which sits near the botany books on the library shelf, is the major
culprit. PBS should be ashamed for giving Baker so wide an audience
because many of Baker's recommendations are sheer nonsense. However, he
doesn't bother me as much as the high school and college biology texts
with numerous glaring botany errors, error-filled botany science project
books written by nonbotanists, error-filled NSF funded plant curricula
like "GrowLab", and terribly inaccurate botany articles in science
teaching journals that refuse to publish corrections or criticisms of
the articles. Perhaps what is needed is for NABT or BSA to give a "Green
Thumb" award to accurate botany teaching materials and a "Brown Thumb"
award to substandard ones.

David Hershey
dh321 at excite.com

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