Sidebar: Just Printing Results Doesn't Validate Them

Sidebar: Discouraging Hypotheses Slows Progress

What is a scientific fact? How are such facts established? Who are the judges, the referees, the peers who do the reviewing? Can scientific publishers be trusted to disseminate articles containing nothing but verified facts? And is it good for science that journals take pride in publishing nothing but facts?

In one of the following essays, Washington University physicist Michael Friedlander urges scientists to interpret what they read in scientific journals not as incontrovertible fact so much as carefully reviewed information that referees have worked to purge of obvious flaws. In a companion essay, endocrinologist and journal editor David Horrobin argues that in their refusal to publish theoretical papers, a majority of journals in the biomedical sciences are depriving researchers of a major source of potential facts--the ideas of scientists who may not be very good experimentalists, but...

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