LYMEPOLICYWONK: What Will It Be, Peer Review or Censorship: New Tick Borne Disease Journal
What are we to make of the recently launched journal “Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases” that includes on its editorial board five members of the IDSA Lyme guidelines panel? Dr. Wormser, who chaired the IDSA Lyme guidelines panel, is an associate editor of the journal. Do you think that they might have a bias or might exclude others points of view? If so, is this peer review or is it censorship?
What happens when editors and peer reviewers disagree with the viewpoint of a research article? How about when the author and the reviewer are in warring camps on a scientific issue? Concerns about the effects of peer review bias and its impact on scientific impartiality are discussed in a recent report, which defines bias to include “occasions when the referee and author are competitors in some sense, or when they belong to warring schools of thought.” David Kaplan at Case Western Reserve University believes that the bias of the gatekeepers “can very quickly become censorship”. Brian Martin, a Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia and a man who knows the science behind science and suppression, says: “[A]nonymous peer review can be used to marginalize a challenging theory and, at the same time, the secrecy involved can reduce awareness that anything improper might be involved.”
The Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases was just recently launched. All told the following IDSA Lyme guidelines panelists serve in editorial functions for the journal:
Dr. G. Wormser (Associate Editor) Previous Chair of the IDSA Lyme guidelines panel
Dr. D. Fish (Editorial Board)
G. Stanek (Editorial Board)
Dr. A. Steere (Editorial Board)
Dr. F. Strle (Associate Editor)
Being on an editorial board can be hard work. It can also be a powerful position. Editors may set the tone for the journal, determine what ultimately gets published, and select peer reviewers for articles. In a recent column, Frank Furedi puts the matter plainly:
Unfortunately, even with the best will in the world, peer reviewing is rarely an entirely disinterested process. All too often the system of peer review is infused with vested interests. As many of my colleagues in academia know, peer reviewing is frequently carried out through a kind of mates’ club, between friends and acquaintances, and all too often the question of who gets published and who gets rejected is determined by who you know and where you stand in a particular academic debate.
Those interested in recent criticisms of the peer review process should look at the following articles:
I Hate Your Paper (Jef Akst, The Scientist)
Peer Review and the Age of Aquarius (Sarah Green, The Scientist)
How to attack a scientific theory and get away with it (usually): the attempt to destroy an origin-of-AIDS hypothesis (Brian Martin, Science as Culture, Vol. 19, No. 2, June 2010, pp. 215-239)
Turning peer review into modern-day holy scripture (Frank Furedi, Spiked On-Line)
You can contact Lorraine Johnson, JD, MBA at firstname.lastname@example.org.