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The Power of Passionate Debate

Ever since I can remember, I’ve enjoyed a good discussion – or even a heated debate. Indeed, on countless occasions I’ve played ‘devil’s advocate,’  hoping to elicit a more passionate response from my sparring partner. Some may argue that passion has no place in science – especially in cases where a totally objective viewpoint is needed. (Although whether anyone can claim total objectivity is a matter of philosophical debate in and of itself.)

For those who missed last month’s “Critical, Constructive or Crass?”, Victoria Samanidou used the In My View section entirely as we intended, writing in a focused and passionate way on the subject of peer review ( I’m sure you can guess from the title the general gist of the article. Magically, her passion for the topic ignited a short discussion online (and hopefully a few more words over coffee or in corridors):

‘Pete’ states, “The principles of reviewing (I believe) are clear, but humans behave badly. Some will submit the same paper to two journals simultaneously [...] Some authors completely ignore reviewer comments and try the next journal on their list.”

But ‘Bob’ fights Samanidou’s corner: “[Reviewer] comments such as ‘this is garbage’, are not only rude and unhelpful, they also demonstrate (to the Editor) that the reviewer is either lazy or incapable of clearly listing and explaining the paper’s limitations.” It appears reviewing and total objectivity do not always go hand in hand.

The Power List reignited our ‘women in science’ debate on Twitter. @ClaireEEyers tweeted: “Really guys – only 15?” Meanwhile, @J_DoubleS really hammered home a couple of points: “Shame that the top 20 of the @tAnaSci #powerlist are all white men.” And @HilderEmily wryly noted, “Now with almost 100% more women.” But as I noted last month – it’s your list. And in fact, the percentage of women on the final roster quite accurately reflected the percentage nominated...

Finally, we interview Gary Siuzdak who has received both praise and criticism for a recent paper on thermal degradation in gas chromatography (1). An example of the latter is an online comment on C&EN (2): “This seems another unfortunate example of a peer-review failure.” And thus, we have come full circle.

Debate is healthy. Discussions spark new ideas. Don’t be shy.

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  1. M Fang et al., “Thermal degradation of small molecules: a global metabolomic investigation”, Anal Chem, 87(21),10935-41 (2015). PMID: 26434689
About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. "Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment." On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. "I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication." Rich is now also Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist.

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