15 Mar 2012


Recently, a group of experts wrote a regional guideline and submitted it for publication at the official journal of their society. The handling editor sent it out for external review. One reviewer returned several dozens of recommendations and suggested a number of major modifications in the guideline.

The chairman of the guideline committee was furious. “This is humiliating! The guideline represents the results of thorough discussion and voting by the committee members. How can it be modified by a single outsider who did not join the discussion?” He went on to threaten to withdraw the manuscript and send it to another journal, which he was sure would eagerly accept it as it was. After all, a guideline on a major topic would guarantee several hundred citations.

This reminded me of another story. After Tchaikovsky had completed his Piano Concerto No. 1 in 1875, he showed it to the pianist Nikolai Rubinstein, hoping that he would perform the work at concert. Rubinstein listened as Tchaikovsky played the piano part. He remained silent throughout the performance. When Tchaikovsky finally finished and asked for his opinion, he stated that the work was vulgar, unplayable and should be largely rewritten. “I shall not alter a single note,” the angry Tchaikovsky answered. “I shall publish the work exactly as it is!” And he did. (Interestingly, Tchaikovsky actually revised the work in 1879 and again in 1888. This later also became Rubinstein’s favorite piece and one of the world’s most popular piano concerti.)

But medical science is different from art. I look forward to reading the final version of the guideline.

P.S. According to the Six Links Rule, any person can be linked to any other person on this planet through a chain of no more than six different people. Amazingly, as the story unfolds, I actually know the chairman, handling editor and both reviewers personally. It is a small world after all!

No comments:

Post a Comment