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The negative influence of fashionable science on research


Science and Nature publish the most fashionable papers
Jan Klein Scientist
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Where did Snell publish his papers? Including papers that were then cited for the reason why he was awarded the Nobel Prize, so he published in Journal of Genetics, Journal of National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research, Folia Biologica... probably most people don't know the journal but that was the journal of the Institute of Experimental Biology and Genetics in Prague... Transplantation Proceedings and so on and so on. No Nature, no Science.

Why was that? Did they not want to publish it there or was these journals not interested? Actually if you... I once compiled a list of 100 papers most important in immunology when I wrote the book, the textbook of immunology. I compiled that list and there were only very few that were published in these journals and in Science or Nature or PNAS. Most of the others were published in specialised journals... in journals that are not highly cited or highly recognised, so why was that? I think the whole area... I think that Science and Nature do not publish the most important papers, they publish the most fashionable papers. When H2 was in a period when it was not fashionable, all the important work was published somewhere else than in these two journals. Only when it became fashionable you could publish in these two or other highly, so-called highly cited journals, and I think that these journals actually generate the fashion. So they are not... so they are pretending that they are publishing the most exciting, most important papers that are there, but in fact they are just publishing most fashionable papers in a particular area. So the people... and the people who are in Science and Nature cannot actually recognise what is important and not. They recognise easily what is fashionable because they can just look around and there is a bandwagon effect and they can... everybody is... so, what is new and everybody is expecting a result already on something and then they get hold of it and they can publish it, but that's too late already. The important work is... the footwork is done in the early stages and the important work in H2 was done by Gorer and Snell and these people at Nature and Science would not recognise as being important, and that's not true just in this particular case, that's true in every area of research. If you just take let's say the genome research... the important papers that Nature now publishes, the genome sequences of this species and other species and so on, that's what they consider important. The important papers were those that led to the possibility of sequencing a genome.  The whole area of genomic research had its beginning... and molecular biology had its beginning with the restriction enzymes and all the individual ingredients that were necessary for the development of the area. These papers were not published in Science and Nature.

Born in 1936, Jan Klein is a Czech-American immunologist who co-founded the modern science of immunogenetics – key to understanding illness and disease. He is the author or co-author of over 560 scientific publications and of seven books including 'Where Do We Come From?' which examines the molecular evolution of humans. He graduated from the Charles University at Prague in 1955, and received his MS in Botany from the same school in 1958. From 1977 to his retirement in 2004, he was the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology at Tübingen, Germany.

Listeners: Colm O'hUigin

Colm O'hUigin is a senior staff scientist at the US National Cancer Institute. He received his BA, MSc and PhD at the Genetics Department of Trinity College, Dublin where he later returned as a lecturer. He has held appointments at the Center for Population and Demographic Genetics, UT Houston, and at the University of Cambridge. As an EMBO fellow, he moved in 1990 to the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen, Germany to work with Jan Klein and lead a research group studying the evolutionary origins of immune molecules, of teeth, trypanosomes and of species.

Tags: Science, Nature, Journal of Genetics, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research, Folia Biologica, PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Transplantation Proceedings, George Davis Snell

Duration: 4 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008