Censorship

John Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Fri Dec 21 08:11:32 CST 2001


In response to Geoff Read's latest comments:


> > The trouble occurs in New Zealand where, as Geoff Read has indicated, the
> > role of the reviewer seems to be seen as one of a censor and where editors
> > just follow that directive and panbiogeography is locked out.
>
>I indicated no such thing.

Its possible I misunderstood some of Geoff's statements as follows:

"Why can't their individual belief be that there is a
fundamental problem with the scientific quality? If they think it's off the
wall,
are they not supposed to say so?"

To me this suggested that individual belief was sufficient grounds for
rejecting a paper
given that the Galapagos reviewers did that and nothing else (i.e.
presented nothing to
demonstrate that there was any scientific problem other than it was a
methodology or
perspective they did not like).

"only referees would accept his methodology. Many presumably don't,
hence the high rejection rate he experiences."

Again Geoff appears to be presuming rejection comes from referees not
accepting panbiogeographic methodology. Since Geoff made no objection it
clearly indicates that suppression of alternative approaches in
biogeography to one's own approach (and presumably this would apply to
science in general) is sufficient and defensible. So if one is a cladist,
suppress phenetics, if one is a panbiogeographer, suppress dispersal and
vicariance cladistics and visa versa. Since panbiogeography has less
supporting practitioners overall it will therefore be more liable to
censorship simply because it had the great failing of being a minority.

Of further interest is the claim that I have had a "high rejection" rate.
Either Geoff substantiates that claim or offer a retraction.

>And if you  make such sweeping generalisations
>please try not to contradict them in your very next sentence.

I am not aware that I did. I pointed out how the special issue was an
exception to the predominant editorial and reviewer censorship prevalent in
New Zealand science publications.

>But I wonder if their "claims about
>panbiogeography that are not correct ..." (according to him that is)  is not
>some of that substantiation (caveat - it's not entirely clear if he's talking
>about his own work).

Instead of "wondering" one may read the panbiogeographic literature and
offer precise
evidence. So far some authors have attempted to do just that (Nelson,
Platnick, Seberg, Humphries,
Cox) although one may notice their objections are mostly of a rhetorical
nature and do not address the fact that the tracks are not questioned (i.e.
there has been no case yet made that the tracks identified in
panbiogeography do not exist) and panbiogeography has successfully
generated novel predictions (i.e. "sound" or not philosophically the method
works).

>John is on a dedicated crusade for panbiogeography

Everyone is on a dedicated crusade for whatever they do, otherwise why
bother doing anything?

>and is probably never going to be happy he's received a fair hearing
>unless the outcome is a publication for every submission.

Of course Geoff is attempting to characterize my state of mind, and if he
is going to do so publicly I would suggest he provide some sound evidence
or refrain. I will not impute his motives and purposes and I ask that he
does not for mine. In my case I do acknowledge that I have had rejections
that have involved from a fair hearing as the reviewers identified specific
problems rather than just being opposed to panbiogeography.

On a general note, the problem of censorship is a general problem for
science, not something confined to panbiogeography. For those interested in
the philosophy and methodology of science it is a real issue. How is
science to progress if minority views cannot get adequate publication
access? On the other hand it is not possible to have a situation of
"anything goes". I think the problem with censorship arises when the
"normal" criteria of evaluation tend to be left out as reviewers reject on
a philosophical basis rather than criteria of factual evidence, logical
sequence in the development of evidence and theoretical inference.
Censorship is a real factor in the history and development of science. It
can be worse in some journals than others, and worse in some countries than
others. As a minority viewpoint I am perhaps more focused on this issue
(i.e. if one is orthodox the problem never arises).

John Grehan




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