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Re: New York Times article (Albert Henderson) ERCELAA@ctrvax.Vanderbilt.Edu 25 Aug 1999 18:00 UTC

Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 07:42:00 -0400
From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: New York Times article

on 24 Aug 1999 Steve Black <blacks@ROSNET.STROSE.EDU> wrote
> SERIALSTers may be interested in this article in today's (8/24/99) Science
> section of the New York Times:
> LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D., "Inside Medical Journals, a Rising Quest for
> Profits"

Altman's command of the facts is poor and his bias is
transparant. He obviously doesn't understand the economics
of journal publishing. Articles are not "received free from
authors." They are exchanged for premium dissemination that
cannot be purchased. The protectiveness of that elite premium
quality, expressed in terms of honest profits, seems to be
the target of his criticism. At least he admits journals
depend on peer review.

Altman's allusion to vanity publishing is extremely unfair.
See PRQ 14,4 (Winter 1998/99) if you want to understand page

He also recites the myth of "inferior quality" and "excessive
publishing."  Reports at the 1997 International Congress on
Peer Review (in JAMA July 15, 1998) dispell this -- far too
quietly, in my view.

His final shot at lobbying may be entirely unfounded. Taking a
position on policy in order to advise the government is
substantially different from lobbying for passage of a particular
bill -- or having porkbarrel paragraphs slipped into spending
bills. Societies are generally chartered to promote dissemination
of information; educating and advising the government on policy
is an essential part of that.

With a divine sense of justice, perhaps, the top of the Times'
front page carried a story titled "Lobbying for Research Money,
Colleges  Bypass Review Process. Critics say Politics Distorts
Priorities of Science." I think it was President Eisenhower who
called national attention to the replacement of intellectual
curiosity by government contracts nearly 40 years ago.

Albert Henderson