If you are a journal publisher or editor, it's pretty much impossible to avoid controversy. There's the good kind: a well-argued disagreement on an important subject, or astounding new evidence that overturns an established theory, for example. But then there's the bad kind: an author who doesn't stick to your rules, a paper that doesn't hold up, or worse.

The real test of a journal's mettle is not whether it manages to avoid the second type of controversy but rather, how well it copes with the fallout. A couple of recent examples of such coping mechanisms have made interesting viewing.

First, the Biological Society of Washington (BSW) stepped in a big heap of controversy when it published a paper on intelligent design (S.C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," Proc Biol Soc Wash, 117:213–39, Sept. 15, 2004). The article thrust the BSW's sleepy Proceedings...

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