At a recent AACC dinner meeting, I heard an interesting talk by Nader Rifai, the editor of Clinical Chemistry. About halfway through his talk, I remembered an event that took place a couple of years ago, so I asked him a question after his talk ended. My question and Nader’s responses went something like this:
Me: “A while ago, I read a commentary article that I didn’t agree with and submitted a Letter to the editor about it. The response from the journal was…”
Rifai: “It wouldn’t be reviewed because it wasn’t about an original article, right?”
Me: “Yes, that’s right, then I looked at a few issues and saw that the percentage of original articles is only about 50% of the journal. This means that one can’t comment about a large portion of the journal.”
Rifai: “Well, we were seeing Letters to the editor about other Letters to the editor and with commentary articles it is common that many people won’t have the same opinion as the author, so we don’t want to fill up the journal with such stuff.”
This is sort of what I remembered, not verbatim but that is the gist of it.
So basically, Rifai is putting Letters to the editor into a generic category similar to junk mail or the endless comments associated with Twitter or a blog and at the same time giving immunity to authors – other than those who write original articles – from any kind of comment.
But the problem is that commentary articles in Clinical Chemistry are about science and if the authors get the science wrong, it is a mistake to prevent people from pointing that out. That is unscientific / elitist. Perhaps contributing to this elitism was that Rifai mentioned that articles in Clinical Chemistry are of high quality due to the extensive review process. But this doesn’t guarantee correctness.
And Clinical Chemistry has changed its policy. I commented briefly on this topic before in this blog. My 2010 Letter to the editor about a “Question and Answer” type article was published. Moreover, I think my 2010 Letter had a role in shaping glucose meter standards but these days the Letter would not have been considered.
So now I have less interest in reading Clinical Chemistry.