Reviews Journal

A right royal spat

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7507.53 (Published 30 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:53
  1. Geoff Watts ([email protected]), freelance medical journalist
  1. London

    The Lancet and the Royal Society clash over their respective roles

    Does the editor of a learned journal have a right to comment on the policies and actions of other bodies operating in his field? In a free society surely the only point of issue is over the word “right”—critical appraisal is not so much a right as an obligation. The principle, then, is clear. The practice may be a bit messier.

    The Lancet of 21 May carried a leader article entitled “What is the Royal Society for?” The question, it argued, was one that the society's new president, Martin Rees, should be asking himself. By way of guidance the Lancet offered Sir Martin some thoughts to be going on with: that Britain's national academy of science has become “a lazy institution resting on its historical laurels” and that it is now “little more than a shrill and superficial cheerleader for British science.”

    The Royal Society's contributions to medical science, it declared, are woeful: “Its marbled cupboards are largely bare.” During the past six months, the leader continued, “it has produced little of public value,” just “meagre morsels of endeavour.” Compare this “astonishingly weak …

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