Over wetenschappelijke censuur

Eerder publiceerden we hier op deze site een nieuwtje over een nieuw onderzoek dat was gehouden in Ierland naar de blootstelling van barmensen aan tweede hands rook. Op de site van BMJ reageerde Forces Nederland op de futiliteit van dit onderzoek.


Duidelijk in de kuif gepikt over deze brutale kritiek reageerde een Belgische professor in ‘gezondheidspromotie en -onderwijs’. Zij/hij vond dat dit soort kritiek van niet-medici niet kon op een site als BMJ. Uiteraard konden wij ook niet anders dan antwoorden op zoveel arrogantie.


Dr. Michael Siegel pikte deze discussie op zijn beurt weer op om de censuur, die door de anti-tabaksbeweging blijkbaar wordt gepredikt, aan de kaak te stellen op zijn blog.


What I infer this professor is suggesting is that the role of BMJ in its Rapid Responses is to publish scientific contributions based on scientific research and not opinions of individuals. The implication (in my interpretation) is that it is perhaps unethical for the journal to publish opinion rather than scientific research itself.

But this assertion is, I think, wrong for two reasons.

First, opinion is an essential part of virtually every scientific, medical, and public health journal I am aware of. Not only do these journals contain commentaries and letters to the editor, which are often expressions of individual opinions, but within scientific articles themselves, the authors offer their own opinions.

Second, and more importantly, the very nature and purpose of the Rapid Response feature of BMJ is, I think, to encourage discussion and debate about the published articles among members of the public, including non-scientists who would otherwise not have a forum in which to take part in the discussion. If you look at virtually any of the Rapid Responses to BMJ articles, you will find that the published responses are largely individual opinions.

In fact, the public health professor’s response itself is an opinion. She states that the article has sound scientific basis and the response by the FORCES president is based merely on emotion, yet she offers absolutely no scientific or other documentation to back up her assertion. She suggests that BMJ should perhaps not publish these types of comments, which is itself an opinion. And she suggests that perhaps publishing opinion rather than science is unethical – again, her opinion.


Michael Siegel’s blog
De discussie op de site van de British Medical Journal

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