Volume 5, Issue 2
Ah, at last some controversy! And I want to thank Dr. Brent Logan for bringing it to the fore (see Letters to the Editor). The controversy involves the issue of peer review in scientific journals. It also involves the question of what role if any does an editor have in policing the material brought before the public. Studies indicate for example that there is a lot more fraud in science than we scientists would like to believe, that there is a strong suggestion that there are not many really adequate checks to these excesses. According to the standard bureaucratic line, science polices itself by requiring that results of research be replicable and replicated. That means that the results are supposed to be reported in such a way that other scientists can repeat the research and check the original results. The fact of the matter is that very few scientific results are replicated. Reputations are not made in science by repeating somebody else's research. As a consequence, a lot of faulty science does get through into the literature. If you are interested in this question, I would recommend an excellent book by William Broad and Nicholas Wade entitled Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982).
One mechanism for protecting the quality of scientific reportage that is generally used is the institution of peer review in journals. That means that before articles submitted for publication are accepted by the editor, they are sent anonymously to other scientists and professionals for critical evaluation. Thomas R Verny first introduced this procedure for PPPJ and I almost always send a paper out for review to at least two members of our Editorial Board for their comments before I decide to publish it. I try to send the paper to reviewers who's areas of competence are as close as possible to the topic of the paper. I also take the author's name off the copy the reviewers receive and assign it a number. After I hear back from all the reviewers, I then decide which of the following categories to assign the paper: (1) accept the paper for publication without any revisions, (2) accept the paper for publication with slight revisions suggested by the reviewers and myself, (3) reject the paper, but allow it to be resubmitted with major revisions, or (4) reject the paper as unsuitable for our journal. Thus far, most papers have fallen into category number 2.
Now, as Dr. Logan notes, this method of evaluating papers can, if the editor is not careful, exert a conservative influence upon the types of research being reported in a journal. If an editor and his/her Editorial Board are not mindful of this, only mainstream ideas and research procedures may make it through the filter of the review process. I know this from my own experience as an anthropologist with, shall I say, unorthodox views on the nature of the human condition. I am very sensitive to this issue, and I agree with Dr. Logan that it is a persistent problem in the production of scientific literature.
For this reason PPPJ takes (has always taken) the most eclectic stance in considering articles of scientific import to the pre- and perinatal psychology movement. We will continue to bend over backwards to be broad in scope, to tolerate divergent views and methods of inquiry, to accept a balanced presentation of data from clinical, phenomenological, naturalistic and experimental perspectives, and to appreciate a wide range of theory and literary style. At the same time, we are committed to quality, whatever the view or method espoused. And quality in science involves in part a demonstrated relationship between an author's views of the world and accurate observations of the world-be those observations from the lab, the consulting room, the field or the self. After all, the only thing that distinguishes science from other modes of knowing is a commitment to scrutinize how we come to know what we claim to know. Science is not just knowledge, but is a concern for how we know. If a scientist claims that "all bananas are yellow," it is of great importance to be able to show that there are purple bananas in the world. This is called the falsifiability of ideas. One of the things I look for in a paper as both a professor of science and a journal editor is how well has the author handled this all-important relationship between beliefs about the world and evidence about the world. This is such a major issue that, along with Dr. Logan, I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Perhaps we can generate a dialogue about editorial responsibility and the quality of reportage in these pages.
Meanwhile, we have a number of interesting articles in this quarter's issue to feed your curiosity. The lead article by Dr. Roberta Sachs is disturbing in the extreme. It presents clinical findings related to the use and abuse of infants and children in Satanic Cult rituals, a much discussed topic in the media today. Dr. Justus Hofmeyr briefly reports on a procedure carried out during the 1960's using "abdominal decompression." This report is very appropriate considering the issue of quality in science I have discussed above, for it was believed at the time that this procedure would produce exceptional intelligence in the fetus and newborn. As it turns out, this belief was based upon faulty research. Dr. B.R.H. Van den Bergh reports on some research relating the maternal emotional state to the behavior of the fetus and the later behavior of the newborn. Dr. Janet Kestenberg Amighi reviews some of the cross-cultural evidence pertaining to the relationship between maternal detachment and positive affect. The last article is by myself and is one that was originally published in the 1985 special precongress issue of this journal. A number of PPPANA members have asked that it be made more easily available. This is the paper mentioned by Dr. Logan in his letter. I would like to assure Dr. Logan, and the rest of you, that the original manuscript was reviewed before acceptance by the editor (then, Dr. Thomas R Verny) and was in fact substantially revised to meet the reviewers' criticisms. I would like to draw special attention to the outline in our Sharing Space for a proposed course in pre- and perinatal psychology developed by Dr. Thomas R Verny and Michael Irving. I think it is very important to introduce a pre- and perinatal component into the curriculum of various university disciplines, especially psychology. We also have four excellent book reviews. I am pleased that more of you are taking the responsibility of reviewing books. Keep up the good work!