Thursday, January 23, 2014

WTF Nature?

Up to know I saw scientific journals as a medium to present scientific data to the scientific community. And "reading a journal" meant for me that I skim through the content of my usual journals to see if there is anything interesting regarding my own current research. The only journals I've ever read more in detail are the society journals I get in a printed version. And so I have only occasionally stumbled over a piece of "communication" covering lets say topics related to the scientific community rather than the science itself.
My perception of scientific journals has changed dramatically in the last few days starting with the discussions about the Nature correspondence piece on gender and publishing and my eyes kept widening when I read about the personal vendetta of Natures senior editor Henry Gee against Dr. Isis. Following the stream of links I fairly soon ended up at the "Womenspace" article, which just made me puke with all its stereotype-dripping "thigh-slapper" kind of "humor".
It is outrageous and disgusting that the decision makers of journals having so much influence on scientific careers think it is appropriate and  funny to publish "articles" like that. That it would be a valuable contribution to the scientific community. And it is even more outrageous that these people think it is appropriate to reveal the real identities of anonymous bloggers just because they feel like it. What does it matter if I know the real identity of a person who criticizes my work? The whole peer review process is based on not knowing who criticizes my work! This criticism  can be harsh and personal, but it is still expected that the person under critique is able to deal with it in a professional way. People working for scientific journals should be leading examples in this field. Revealing someones real identity without their permission brings no positive contribution to the plate - it is just done to harm someone in the worst possible way. The question came up how safe the anonymity of the reviewers for Nature are, if their senior editor is not able to stay professional and keep his mouth shut - and I think this is a very valid concern. 
I've never seen scientific journals as representatives of some kind of scientific community view of the world beyond stuff that is based on solid data. I've never seen them as a representative of my scientific self - but I don't feel very well represented right now. Quite naive it seems to have such a narrow view on what's going on in the glam world of journals. This will change as soon as I'm done chundering!

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