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From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: brown recluse
Date: 18 Nov 1998 04:00:55 GMT

Aaron Andrew Fox <> writes:

>Once again, your lack of familiarity with the institutional structure of
>science is showing. Peer-review is, in general, and by definition, a
>"blind" process in which the identity of the author of a study (or a
>grant application) is concealed from the reviewers. No letters after the
>names, and in fact no names.

   I wish that were true.  But as a matter of fact, most peer review is
not blinded.  You the author don't know who your reviewers are, to be
sure, but they know who YOU are.  That sometimes gives them a very
nasty advantage.  About the only way you can get out of being
blackballed by a competitor lab, in some worst case scenarios, is to
request formally that the other group not be allowed to review any work
you submit.  Most journals allow such exclusions, and the NIH does on
grants, as well.

>You could publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal if the article
>was scientific and met the journal's standards. You could even get a
>research grant, if you had the appropriate institutional affiliations
>(which I admit does limit the pool in a useful way). But if you
>co-authored a grant proposal or an article with one of your MD friends,
>assuming they have a university or hopsital affiliation, you'd be in like
>Flynn, as long as what you were saying made any sense. But it doesn't.
>It doesn't always work this way. Books, in general, are sent out for peer
>review with the author's name revealed to reviewers (although the
>reviewers are supposed to be people with no conflicts of interest with
>respect to the author . . .) But scientific studies published as articles
>in JAMA or other major medical journals -- no way. It's a blind process.

   It is NOT.   In an ideal world, it would be.  But there are very
severe difficulties in getting from here to there.  If a paper's in my
field, I can tell what lab it came from, even if all that information
has been removed from the paper (and quite a LOT of technical info
would have to be-- and who then would check THAT).  But the cites and
the methods and the reasoning still give it away.  Hell, I can even
tell sometimes who my REVIEWERS are, and they contribute much less in
the way of information about themselves in the process of reviewing my
papers, than I contribute about MYSELF, in a full paper I submit.  So
it's not so easy.

                                   Steve Harris, M.D.

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