Monday, February 25, 2008

Left behind

In an article cleverly titled "What the heck is happening to Lancet?" Meganomania shows just what it takes for her to become paralyzed with disbelief about the quality of a publication: you must post three articles with which she disagrees


Apparently, it is now publishing articles like this:

Rich countries are poaching so many African health workers that the practice should be viewed as a crime, a team of international disease experts say in the British medical journal The Lancet.

The provision of health services in poor countries is a huge problem that the international community should worry about. But not by declaring medical personnel the property of the state, and their migration therefore a form of thievery. There's been a lot of talk recently about the right of entry for poor people, but even more important is the right of exit. There's a reason that places which require their citizens to get permission to migrate are generally dreadful places to live.


OMGzors! Lancent isn't totally rewriting submitted articles to conform to Megan's political beliefs! Have they the brain-worms? Sure, calling it a "crime" is at least a little hyperbolic, but why the hell shouldn't people be upset when countries trying to improve their poor way of life see skilled workers fleeing to other countries already better off? Seems to me a reasonable argument could be made that poor countries that have invested money and infrastructure into training health care workers could expect said workers to stick around and acutally improve the health care quality of those that made the investment.

But in her continuing desire to show how much more important profit is than things like providing medical care to deeply impoverished countries in sub-Saharan Africa Megan decides to deride a journal with which she has only passing familiarity for not censoring it's submitters.

Where's the joke? I can't think of one. I seriously am thinking of quitting this gig. Reading her libertarian drivel, especially when she's writing as prolifically as she has been lately, just saps the humor right out of me. She is just horrible.

12 comments:

Sonic Charmer said...

"Lancent isn't totally rewriting submitted articles..."

Megan's complaint is not that they're "not totally rewriting" submitted articles, it's that they are (evidently) accepting and publishing stupid articles. You did know, did you not, that scientific journals are allowed to reject articles, or at least send them back for revision? A journal like Lancet is (one hopes - to be honest, I don't really read Lancet) not some sort of open conduit pass-through that merely accepts and publishes everything submitted to it as-is. Well, this makes the basket of articles they choose to accept and publish, in the form that they are published, perfectly fair game for criticism on the grounds that they are, for example, stupid and nonscientific. Really, I think you know this.

So Megan's point is that the articles they choose to accept and publish nowadays are, in one way or another, stupid. A rebuttal to this point would consist of actually defending such articles on scientific grounds. Alas, you did not really attempt to do this, unsurprisingly.

" Sure, calling it a "crime" is at least a little hyperbolic, but why the hell shouldn't people be upset when countries trying to improve their poor way of life see skilled workers fleeing to other countries already better off?"

I don't know whether "people" "should be upset" about this but that sort of thing is not really legitimate fodder for what is supposedly a scientific medical journal. "People should be upset about African doctors getting jobs in England" is simply not a scientific statement. And you try to defend it on the grounds that it's only a "little hyperbolic". Tell me, when did "a little hyperbole" become accepted scientific practice?

There is no scientific study or logic behind making such a statement; it is a political/moral opinion. So if Lancet is now publishing articles based on what (whoever) thinks "people" "should be upset" about it is a different sort of journal than it (and people who cite it) fancies itself to be, and that is precisely Megan's point. Right?

"But in her continuing desire to show how much more important profit is than things like providing medical care to deeply impoverished countries..."

Actually, the thing Megan considers 'important' in that post is not "profit" (what "profit" would you even be talking about?) but freedom. She is arguing for the freedom of, for example, African M.D.'s to obtain employment in and move to other countries if they so choose and the country in question is amenable. You are arguing for...the contrary? You think African doctors should be locked down? Ankle bracelet, confiscated passport? Then what exactly?

Again, there may be some moral appeal to the idea that a sort of tragedy occurs when such countries undergo this sort of brain drain. But there is no conceivable objective medical or scientific study that could possibly support the complaint being made. It is simply not science, ergo, Lancet is not purely a scientific journal.

If your response is going to be "nothing wrong with that", well hey, you're right. But it is surely worth keeping in mind when evaluating Lancet's output.

"Megan decides to deride a journal with which she has only passing familiarity for not censoring it's submitters."

Dude, you still don't get it. Do you know anything about how scientific journals work? The article is supposed to actually be good and acceptable to a team of reviewers in order to be published! You're making it sound like journals have an obligation to publish, without 'censoring', every single fever dream that some crank sends them - long zany proofs showing that one can square the circle, etc.

You are mistaken, of course.

"Reading her libertarian drivel,"

So it's "libertarian" to take the position that individuals in poor countries who obtain, for example, M.D.'s ought to be allowed the freedom to seek employment and move elsewhere, and that it is silly to suggest otherwise, particularly to cloak such a suggestion in 'scientific' trappings? If so, count me in and send me an Ayn Rand T-shirt, along with anyone who has even a modicum of common sense.

But please, feel free to defend the notion of trapping educated people in poor countries, if you can. I don't think you will because I don't think you can because I don't think you really want to - you just want to criticize every single post Ms. McArdle writes. But hey, I'll check back later just in case you do try to cobble together an argument for the oh so progressive 'ankle bracelet upon medschool graduation' policy...that would be pretty entertaining.

NutellaonToast said...

Yes, Sonic, I want ankle bracelets on all educated people, just as you want all of your opponents to be made of straw.

Proposing two extremes and noticing that one of them is better than the other is not strong arguing, it's just plain old retarded.

Finally, scientific journals editorialize frequently. Even if Lancet has some rule against any sort of opinion making, scientific journals aren't line by line edited and making one non-scientific statement is hardly grounds for rejection.

Lastly, invoking the word "profit" was not to be taken literally. I guess while you have a strong mastery of how scientific journals work, you're not so strong on your reading comprehension skills.

BTW, that's a rather long post. Are you the one that's been giving Megan her pills?

spencer said...

Dude, now you know why I only lasted about three weeks into this project. She's an overprivileged twit without a trace of self-awareness. Her writing kills more brain cells than my granddad's moonshine - but is infinitely harder to choke down.

brad said...

Hey sonic, how's about you give us reason to believe Megan actually read the article in question before summarily dismissing it?
She links to a summary in the NYTimes that's all of a paragraph.

Nutella, try taking a break. We all take a few days off from her now and then.

NutellaonToast said...

yeah, I've been picking and choosing lately because I'm so exhausted. I think the main problem is that there's only so many times you can type "McMoron" before you start to feel a bit like Sisyphus

Clem said...

Nutella, you're stronger than I am.

As for sonic, I can't tell if he/she/it is attempting ersatz Jon Swiftian satire while drunk or is merely confused. Anyone who can go from "I might have voted for Obama in the primary, even if he is hip and Orwellian" to "I'm almost certainly going to vote for McCain in November, because he's a post-torture Chauncey Gardiner" in just five working days must have a restless mind. Or meth. Quit stealing Sullivan's stash, sonic. It is unwise to anger bears.

Sonic Charmer said...

"Proposing two extremes and noticing that one of them is better than the other is not strong arguing, it's just plain old retarded."

What exactly would you like to be done with (to?) African doctors to ensure that they don't leave the countries they were born in? Please help me understand so I don't have to make up straw men.

"Finally, scientific journals editorialize frequently."

So, this is an editorial published by the Lancet, and Megan has criticized it. Surely it is perfectly fair to criticize journals on the basis of the editorials they choose to publish. If you thought Megan was off-base in her criticism, once again, the thing to do would be to defend the point of view stated in the article. Yet even you acknowledged it as hyperbole, so I'm back to wondering just what exactly your problem with Megan's post is.

"Even if Lancet has some rule against any sort of opinion making,"

Of course they do not - evidently they accept and publish opinion columns (of which the article in question was one). Your problem with criticizing a journal on the basis that they choose to publish a stupid opinion column = ?

" scientific journals aren't line by line edited and making one non-scientific statement is hardly grounds for rejection."

I've reviewed papers for scientific journals and I did indeed go over every line, at least on the scientific level. (There are editors who attend to the grammar.) Maybe I took the task too seriously. Anyhow, being that this was an opinion piece, they could have chosen any grounds for rejection they damn well pleased. (Could I send them an opinion piece stating my wacko opinion on such-and-such, have them reject it, and come back to them with "hey that's not grounds for rejection, you have no grounds for rejection! you MUST publish my piece!" Would that work?) Again you seem to have this weird idea that there's almost an obligation for journals to publish virtually whatever they get. There was no gun to their head forcing them to publish this particular opinion piece, rejection was certainly possible.

Anyway evidently they did not; evidently the opinion stated in the article was an opinion that the Lancet editors were content to publish. Bully for them. Now Megan has observed the type of article they choose to publish and wondered what is happening to the Lancet. Again, which part of this was out of bounds? Or again, if you think her criticism lacks merit, can you defend the piece?

"Lastly, invoking the word "profit" was not to be taken literally."

Oh. Kay. Was anything meant to be taken literally? Maybe you should highlight those parts of your posts. ;-)

"BTW, that's a rather long post. Are you the one that's been giving Megan her pills?"

Yeah, I don't know what's up with her prolific posting lately either. I am on pills myself though, got me there (sick :)

Sonic Charmer said...

brad:

"Hey sonic, how's about you give us reason to believe Megan actually read the article in question before summarily dismissing it?"

I doubt Megan, like me, read anything more than the excerpt. Sometimes an excerpt of a stupid article is enough to "summarily dismiss" it, i.e. if you see an article containing "in this short article I prove that the circle can be squared", you'd be daft to do anything besides "summarily dismiss" it.

But if you've read the article and its text actually somehow reverses the meaning of the excerpted assertion that it's a "crime" for African doctors to leave Africa and accept jobs that involve healing at least some non-African people, by all means let us know. Again: a real criticism of Megan's post would involve actually defending the article in question, something I don't see any of you doing.



clem:

"Anyone who can go from "I might have voted for Obama in the primary, even if he is hip and Orwellian" to "I'm almost certainly going to vote for McCain in November, because he's a post-torture Chauncey Gardiner" in just five working days must have a restless mind. Or meth. Quit stealing Sullivan's stash, sonic. It is unwise to anger bears."

Fascinating, never been accused of being on meth before :) Anyway I don't understand what conflict you see between voting for (or in my case, wishing to have voted for...) one guy in the primary and another guy in the general. There's really no contradiction at all: I don't want a (D) to be President but if a (D) is going to be President I don't want it to be Hillary, so I'd like to see Obama win. I didn't "go from" one of these points of view to another in five days, they were and are my simultaneous points of view the entire time: I'm totally rooting for Obama to knock out Hillary, and I'll most likely be voting for McCain. Not even sure what would be so hard to understand about any of that, but do let me know if you have any further questions,

P.S. McCain strikes me as more of a General Jack D. Ripper type than a Chauncey Gardiner, but whatever.

NutellaonToast said...

OMG, I read enough drivel in my day. I forfeit. You win Sonic. Megan is a genius.

Clem said...

When I read sonic's lectures to a (mostly) empty hall, I hear Camille Paglia but see Christopher Hitchens. Did those two ever fuck?

Sonic Charmer said...

Don't you talk about my mom and dad that way.

Nutella, so what you're saying is, if I think your critique of Megan is unwarranted in this post, I'm saying she's a "genius". Interesting. Who was it that was complaining about straw-men?

NutellaonToast said...

Wow, Sonic, you read good. Actually, what I'm saying is that I'm ignoring you when you write shit the length of the Nile.