Responsible Conduct of Research

By Adil E. Shamoo; David B. Resnik | Go to book overview

4
Publication and Peer Review

This chapter provides a historical overview of scientific publication and peer review and describes the current practices of scientific journals and granting agencies. It also examines a number of different ethical issues and concerns that arise in publication and peer review, such as quality control, confidentiality, fairness, bias, electronic publication, wasteful publication, duplicate publication, publishing controversial research, and editorial independence. The chapter also addresses the ethical responsibilities of reviewers and concludes with a discussion of the relationship between researchers and the media.


A BRIEF HISTORY OF SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION AND PEER REVIEW

Throughout history, advances in communication technologies have helped to accelerate the progress of science (Lucky 2000). Written language was the first important innovation in communication that helped promote the growth of science. The Egyptians used hieroglyphics as early as 3000 bc, and by 1700 bc the Phoenicians had developed an alphabet that became the basis of the Roman alphabet. With the invention of writing, human beings were able to record their observations and events as well as their ideas. The Egyptians and Babylonians, for example, made detailed observations of the movements of constellations, planets, and the moon in the night sky, as well as the position of the sun in daytime. Ancient Greek and Roman scientists communicated mostly through direct conversations and occasionally through letters. Philosopher-scientists, such as Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Hero, Ptolemy, and Archimedes, discussed their ideas with students and colleagues in their respective schools, academies, and lyceums. Although these scientists also published some influential books, such as Euclid's Elements, Plato's Republic, and Ptolemy's Almagest, books were very rare because they had to be copied by hand on papyrus rolls.

Egypt, especially the city of Alexandria, was the cultural province of Greece and later Rome. The Roman Empire built the largest network of roads and bridges in the world, which increased commercial and scientific communication between the Far East and Middle East and the West. From about 40 bc to 640 ad, most of the world's recorded scientific knowledge rested in the great library of Alexandria. Invading forces burned the library three times, in 269 ad, 415 ad, and 640 ad. Each time the library burned, scholars rushed to save books from being lost forever—to people in the modern, developed world the idea of there being only a single copy of a book that, if lost, is lost forever is almost inconceivable (Ronan 1982).

Aside from the development of written language, the invention of the printing press during the 1400s by the German goldsmith Johannes Gutten-

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