Over the years there have been many comments on the failings of the peer review system, and I have tried to capture the best of them on these pages. Perhaps the most perceptive is the comment of Erwin Chargaff in Chapter Seven which points out how repeated rejections by the Granting Agencies produce “Pavlovian effects and a general neurasthenia that are bound to damage science irreversibly”. I will say more about this here, but I cannot resist first telling you about Chargaff, and my brief encounter with him, since it illustrates well the pressures researchers are under to operate strictly according to the current fashion (“paradigm”), or suffer the consequences.
Erwin Chargaff was born in Austria in 1905 and grew up in Vienna where he received a classical education (1). Eventually he got into chemistry and emigrated to the USA in the 1930s where he obtained a position at Columbia University, in New York. It was in New York during the second world war that Avery and his colleagues at the Rockefeller University obtained clear evidence that DNA was the genetic material (2). Chargaff had already made many important research contributions relating to vitamins and blood clotting. Recognizing the importance of the new work, he switched fields and with his colleagues devised very sensitive methods of measuring the