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Barry Blackwell’s reply

Barry Blackwell’s response to Donald Klein’s comments on his reply to Andre Veras’ comments

I thank Don Klein for his sage comments on my reply to Andre Vera’s earlier contribution. He addresses the significant issue also raised by Sam Gershon’s recent comment on the scientific response by individuals and the entire field due to a changing Zeitgeist. This reminded me of points made in an essay I wrote in 1970 on The Process of Discovery (Blackwell, 1970) as a prelude to the first Taylor Manor Award Series on Discoveries in Biological Psychiatry (Ayd & Blackwell, 1970). In the conclusion, I cite Lawrence Kubie’s cautionary note (Kubie, 1954).  In Kubie’s analysis of unsolved problems in the scientific career, he questions whether students should be warned that scientific success is often determined by social forces beyond individual creativity or the will to work hard. He expresses concern that a frustrated urge to discover might breed a generation of cynical, amoral and disillusioned young scientists suffering from “a new psychosocial ailment that may not be wholly unrelated to the gangster tradition of dead end kids.” A few years later, Robert Merton comments on Kubie’s concern and points out that “for most artisans of research, getting things into print becomes a symbolic equivalent of making a new discovery” (Merton, 1957).

Don makes the interesting point, contrasting clinicians with neuroscientists, that the latter can pad their resumes by short-term animal studies with low dropout rates and strong statistical conclusions. This is compounded by multiple authors on display in the ACNP poster sessions.

A sizeable bibliography may also be an anodyne for lack of clinical relevance and a dwindling bench to bedside translation contributed to by Don’s prescient Presidential observation a quarter of a century ago, that the ACNP was “becoming a neuroscience organization.”  What a shame the leadership allowed its membership to become so lop-sided and that the NIMH virtually extinguished long term support for expert and independent clinical research.

References:

Blackwell B. The Process of Scientific Discovery in Ayd FJ & Blackwell B (eds.) Discoveries in Biological Psychiatry. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1970; 11-29.

Kubie LS. Some unsolved problems in the scientific career. Amer.Sci. 1954; 42: 104-112.

Merton RK. Priorities in scientific discovery: A chapter in the sociology of science, Amer. Sociol. Rev. 1957; 22: 635-659.

 

Barry Blackwell
January 7, 2016