Sunday, March 16, 2008

Final update on Medical Hypotheses article

As promised ( :o ) a final update on this Asians & Down Syndrome story. I had decided that this article was crap and that Mr Bruce Charlton's answer was absolutely not sufficient, so off I went and did a Google search for all the editors listed on the editorial board.

I did not get an answer from:
Peter Andras
Roy Calne
Arvid Carlsson
David L Hull
J Lee Kavanau
Mehar Manku
V.S. Ramachandran
Jack Scannell
Gavin Spickett

I did get an answer from:
David Healy
David Pearce
William Bains
Antonio R Damasio
Jonathan Rees
Andrew Miles

Not available:
Mark A Notturno (email account was full)
James Willis (didn't find his email address)

I was a bit surprised that I did not receive more reactions, but that might be because people thought that I should have taken the usual way, meaning entering a rebuttal via the official way (Mr Bains, Mr Miles (absolute meanie if I may say. He went from calling me oversensitive to hysterical to arrogant and he cc-ed all his emails and forwarded mine to Mr Charlton *rolleyes*. He also insinuated that anybody who took offense at the article was oversensitive, because he as a redhead was also the victim of jokes, but he didn't make such a fuss about it. - Sure, his experiences as redhead are as bad as the racism that minorities face.) and Mr Rees recommended me to take this step). In my opinion this would not have been enough though. My argument is that this article was racist and in no way scientific and should never have been published in an academic journal in the first place, therefore it would have been the responsibility of the editors of this magazine to react and to take appropriate steps, for example, withdrawing the article and clarifying their position on this issue; just printing a rebuttal from a reader does not strike me as sufficient. By not distancing themselves from the content of this article they were supporting it.

The only two who did respond positively to my complaint and took it seriously were Mr Healy (a very very nice and understanding person) and Mr Pearce (I couldn't help noticing that out of only two positive responses one of the writers has a picture on his website posing as a bunny. I bet he is fun :D). Mr Healy was so kind to contact Mr Charlton various times to discuss this matter with him, but it became clear that resolving the issue of having bad article slip through can not be that easily resolved as the amount of articles is enormous coming in from very different fields and the editors are not paid, meaning the responsibility for selecting the quality stuff depends on the lead editor and there is no real possibility that someone else can check on him. In his opinion what should be encouraged is that anybody who takes offense with an article should be free to publish his view, thus including the readers into the peer review process. It also seems Medical Hypotheses does publish all replies, which according to him is much better than with other peer reviewed journals. I had to agree that it made sense what he said and he also told me that he appreciated that his awareness about this issue had been raised. He made his point to Mr Charlton and I am hopeful that his effort will be rewarded with a bit more attention among the editors.

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