Crick and Watson Rejected?

Aug 7, 2015

Photo Courtesy of All-len-All

By Paul Jump

“A double helix? Bit speculative.”

“I regret to say that we cannot offer publication at this time. While your model is very appealing, referee three finds that it is somewhat speculative and premature for publication.”

No doubt most scientists have been on the receiving end of similar comments from journal editors, but surely Francis Crick and James Watson’s landmark 1953 papers on the structure of DNA would be immune to such quibbles?

Not so, according to Ronald Vale, professor and vice chair of the department of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California at San Francisco, who argues that the University of Cambridge pair’s research would have been knocked back by Nature if they submitted their work today.

In a paper recently posted on the bioRxiv preprint service, Vale said that in the past 30 years there has been an estimated fourfold increase in the amount of data required by major journals, largely because of the increased competition to publish in them.


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8 comments on “Crick and Watson Rejected?

  • Lo these many moons … in the early70s I read the seminal article that introducedinsulin for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Today, it would scarcely have been accepted as a letter to the editor.
    I also read the article that introduced the largely inconsequential Gilbert syndrome – of the described patients, several quite obviously fdid not fulfill the critera for Gilbert syndrome.
    One must,so to say, throw away the ladder after one has climbed it. (Wittgenstein)



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  • Recent reports have exposed some ‘peer review’ processes as corrupt.
    Pressure to publish for further research grants is considered the motivation.

    Who’d have thought…money a corrupting influence??



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  • Yes I agree. But I do worry that the big new development will be missed by the prestigious journals since the ideas are too out of step with mainstream thinking. What if Watson and Crick had chosen to give up. Where would we be today?



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  • Willow
    Aug 9, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Yes I agree. But I do worry that the big new development will be missed by the prestigious journals since the ideas are too out of step with mainstream thinking.

    There are usually ideas being exchanged below the level of top journals.

    What if Watson and Crick had chosen to give up. Where would we be today?

    In the case of Crick and Watson, there were others close behind them working on genetics. Failures by editors to recognise breakthroughs, can slow the circulation of discoveries, but are unlikely to stop the march of science.



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  • Good question, but in the arts for example, if Shakespeare hadn’t written what he did it would never have been written.

    In the sciences, if there’s something that can be discovered it will be discovered; sooner or later.

    Although Einstein is supposed to have said something along the lines that if you’ve tried to do something in a certain way repeatedly and it hasn’t worked, then give up; if he did ever say it, I think what he probably meant was keep trying, but in a different way.

    There’s a lot to be said for tenacity and perseverance; never give up on something worthwhile, keep going until it gives you up.



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  • As is sometimes the funding of science by interested parties, fossil fuel industry attempting to fund scientists to publish papers against AWG for one, the tobacco industry for another. Where peer review is ultimately a better system in not that it is perfect but that is a starting place. Very few people believe what is written in a peer review paper just because it is written in a peer review journal unless the evidence is particularly compelling. Usually its the starting point in a conversation, findings may be limited or even admitted to be speculative I often read comments like more research needs to be done in this or that. Any poor research published in peer review journal will then be followed up with articles and and arguments against it. It is a starting place for a conversation not an end point.



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