Publishing on the recommendations of the head of the authors’ lab

Campbell writing at Edge about Maddox

Despite his original establishment of the peer-review process at Nature, Maddox always had strong reservations about its conservatism. These were perhaps best reflected in his view that the Watson and Crick paper on the structure of DNA wouldn’t pass muster under the current system. That paper was published as a result of recommendations by Lawrence Bragg, the head of Watson and Crick’s laboratory, and John Randall. (The idea of Nature publishing a paper on the recommendations of the head of the authors’ lab is nowadays, of course, sadly but appropriately laughable.)

With the current science industry, these stories are already forgotten – there is no way to judge for a reviewer first-hand the impact of a result and its “worthiness” except some second hand criteria like readability, plausibility or the reporting of definitely known facts in a paper. As an editor I would ask the reviewer

  • Do you know the authors? Was their past research reliable?
  • Is the research question really original?
  • Are the methods adequate and do the authors master them?

laughable? Nay, nay.