A smarter way to suppress inconvenient science

After a delay of 6 months, the journal PLOS One returned our manuscript saying that they could not find an academic editor and reviewers for our manuscript. PLOS One is a fairly open minded journal and has a team of editors representing wide diversity of fields. That’s why this kind of response is quite surprising. This is only for the second time in my life I received this response. Earlier incident was with the journal Biology Direct. Are the two incidents only a matter of rare chance? Or are there any specific reasons to it?

One thing common about both is that both were about diabetes, highlighting models that are at substantial deviation from the prevalent mainstream thinking in the field. I think there lays the reason.

What was our paper about? It pointed out a large number of anomalies in the prevalent theory of glucose dysregulation in type 2 diabetes. It listed dozens of mismatches between the theory and an array of reproducible experimental or epidemiological findings. It also suggested an alternative model that could account for almost every anomaly in a coherent thread of logic. Classically type 2 diabetes is believed to result from an elusive concept of “insulin resistance” and inadequate compensatory insulin response. We, on the other hand assumed with sufficient evidence in hand that diabetes begins with vasculopathy. Because of deficient vasculature there is inadequate and defective glucose transport to the brain which makes the brain deficient in glucose. Deprived of sufficient glucose, the brain instructs the liver to release more glucose in blood. Vasculopathy is long known to be a characteristic of diabetes but the thinking was that chronic rise in glucose is the cause of vasculopathy. We are saying the reverse, vasculopathy the cause of rise in sugar. There is clear demonstration that transport of glucose from blood to brain is reduced prior to hyperglycemia. Further, ALL the experimental and epidemiological patterns not explained by the insulin resistance theory are explained with complete coherence by the “vasculopathy first” model. Therefore the alternative model looks more promising. There also exists published evidence that early signs of vasculopathy are seen much prior to hyperglycemia.

The catch is, if we accept the alternative model, the entire line of treatment of diabetes will become completely redundant. That would lead to collapse of a trillion dollar business. But that is much ahead in the sequence. Right now we are not over-claiming. We only say in this paper that the alternative model explains almost all the anomalies and therefore needs to be considered seriously and trigger research on a new line.

How do researchers in a field react to a finding, hypothesis, model or synthesis that directly contradicts the prevalent theory? You would expect them to critically view the new finding, may be find flaws in the argument, aggressively criticize, debate and so on. I am ready to believe that a welcome response is highly unlikely. It would be natural to expect heavy criticism. This might happen if the new argument is inherently flawed and it is easy to find the flaws in it. But what if the prevalent theory itself is flawed and the new argument it substantially stronger and sound in terms of logic, mathematics and evidence?

From repeated experience I know what a typical response of scientists is, particularly from the field of biomedicine. They prefer to keep mum. They neither accept nor reject any disruptive thinking or evidence. They pretend that they just haven’t heard of it. Criticism can be replied to. A debate is likely to take a logical path so that ultimately truth will prevail with a good chance, if not every time. But the strategy that always defeats novel thinking is “silence”. When the giants in a community have vested interests in a prevalent theory and someone makes a sound case that it is wrong, they just keep mum, pretend that nobody said anything; they did not hear anyone saying anything. In the days of hierarchical structure of science publishing this strategy can perhaps never be defeated. The giants in the field can block the new thought from getting published in the flagship journals of the field. They don’t care if it gets published anywhere else because they know nobody reads research anyway. Research is propagated only through a handful of journals; that too only the through the titles and abstracts. Rarely if ever, research papers are read completely.  So often the data in the paper contradicts the statements in the abstract. But everyone reads only the abstract and therefore truth remains masked. If we point out stark difference in the data and the conclusions in a paper, the journal is guaranteed to not respond.

This is not different in principle, from the responses of researchers to a disruptive idea described by Thomas Kuhn, albeit two major differences. One is that of difference in culture of the research fields. Kuhn mostly talked about physics in which ideas are debated. Debate is not in the culture of biomedicine. They have smarter ways to suppress alternative thinking. The second difference is that Kuhn wrote when peer review was not a mandatory norm in science publishing. Now peer review is another weapon by which any upcoming thought can be swiftly killed. And you need not waste any time in reading and commenting as well. Just decline to handle the manuscript and that is enough!! Here is our manuscript in a preprint form (https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.19.477014v1) and see below the correspondence with the editors.

PLOS ONEFri, Aug 12, 6:17 PM
to Milind

Dear Dr. Watve,

I am writing with the difficult news that we have not been able to secure an Academic Editor to handle your manuscript “Hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes: physiological and clinical implications of a brain centered model” (PONE-D-22-04305). Additionally, we have been unable to secure feedback from peer reviewers. We have therefore reluctantly decided that we must return your manuscript to you without review.

I recognize that this decision will be frustrating — it is our desire to provide every suitable manuscript the opportunity for review and evaluation by experts in the research community — and I sincerely apologize that we have not been able to do so in this case. We have exhausted the pool of potential PLOS ONE Academic Editors qualified to handle your manuscript but have not been able to secure a commitment to handle the submission. We have also invited a number of peer reviewers with relevant expertise, but we have not been able to secure the reviews required to support an editorial decision. We are withdrawing your manuscript from consideration to prevent further delays in the assessment of your submission, and so that you can move forward immediately if you choose to submit your work elsewhere.

Again, I am very sorry not to have more positive news for you. I wish you the best in finding an alternative venue for this work.

Best regards,
Emily Chenette
Editor-in-Chief
PLOS ONE

Milind Watve <milindwatve@gmail.com>Sun, Aug 14, 10:23 AM
to PLOS, bcc: Akanksha

Dear Emily,

I understand the agonies of editors. No issues. But I have one request. 

I would like to have your consent to post this letter in the public domain. It is very likely to be a remarkable event in the history of science and students of the history and philosophy of science need to have access to this information. How people in a field react to a paper challenging an existing dogma is a very important question in the history and philosophy of science and making this letter public is extremely essential. Therefore I want to append it to the preprint, as well as write an article about it on my blog on which I have often written about problems in science and science publishing. Link here if you want to view it (https://milindwatve.in/)

Awaiting your response. 

milind

(Dr. Milind Watve)

https://milindwatve.in/

जुस्ते हक़ की रहगुजर में जो सियाही है, मेरी है

उस मजाज़े आराइश में तेरा ही बस हो तो क्या है

The darkness on the path to truth is my homeground. If the dazzling lights in the rest of the world are under your command, why should I care!!

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/a/default-user=s40-p
PLOS ONE <plosjournals@plos.org>Sun, Aug 14, 10:24 AM
to me

Dear Milind Watve

Thank you for contacting PLOS ONE. We will reply to your query as soon as we are able.

In the meantime, please take a look at the following links for more information about our processes:

A message to our community regarding COVID-19 https://blogs.plos.org/plos/2020/03/a-message-to-our-community-regarding-covid-19/
Submission Guidelines http://journals.plos.org/plosone/s/submission-guidelines
Reviewer Guidelines http://journals.plos.org/plosone/s/reviewer-guidelines
Publication Criteria http://journals.plos.org/plosone/s/criteria-for-publication
Editorial & Peer Review Process http://journals.plos.org/plosone/s/editorial-and-peer-review-process
PLOS ONE Video Shorts https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_O2Hm19V2gEUZoyf7J4nva9W9u1XhJXN

We appreciate you reaching out and will be back in touch shortly.

All the best,

PLOS ONE

Case 07687026
PL#0N3_AR
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Milind Watve <milindwatve@gmail.com>Mon, Aug 29, 9:20 PM (13 hours ago)
to plosone

Dear Editor,

This is to inform you that since I did not get any reply from you for over two weeks, I am assuming that you have no objection if I publish your letter in any appropriate context, in a respectful manner. 

milind

(Dr. Milind Watve)

https://milindwatve.in/

जुस्ते हक़ की रहगुजर में जो सियाही है, मेरी है

उस मजाज़े आराइश में तेरा ही बस हो तो क्या है

The darkness on the path to truth is my homeground. If the dazzling lights in the rest of the world are under your command, why should I care!!

3 thoughts on “A smarter way to suppress inconvenient science”

  1. Dr. Watve,

    It is unfortunately the lot of every revolutionary thinker to be frustrated, in one way or another!

    Extremely sorry to know how things have turned out with respect to this paper of yours!

    FWIW, I (just a random layman who was diagnosed with diabetes once, albeit with an academic bent of mind and readiness to exhibit revolutionary behaviour) am really excited to know about your research and am starting to read up on Vasculopathy in more detail, to conduct experiments on myself, personally.

    Thank you, for the research, as also for this decision to make it public!

    Warm regards, Dileepan Raghunathan

    Like

    1. If curious, get my Springer book “Doves, Diplomats and Diabetes” https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4614-4409-1. Without going into details, we simply advocate “behavioral exercise” for combating type 2 diabetes. Behavioral exercise should have elements of physical aggression, adventure, quick action, competition, chasing, escaping etc – the behaviors for which stone age man evolved. Most active sports have these. Exercise is to get back the missing behaviours. Just burning calories and weight loss doesn’t work. No other treatment is of much help.

      Like

  2. I have known Milind since college days. He always thought ‘Out of the box’s.
    The above details are a testimony to his attitude and approach.
    Had he not opted a teaching career and spent life in a Research Institute, he would have ended publishing a record number of papers!!
    I agree that science is misused for personal gains. Pharmaceutical companies and Covid have more than proved this fact.
    A layman is made to believe wrt simple parameters that have been altered methodically using the shield of science and faith.
    Shift from B. P, cholesterol, sugar level (diabetes), vitamin D3, Omega 3 fatty acids, iron in haemoglobin and a plethora of antibiotics and drugs that are marketed methodically to make the masses believe of their vital significance……
    These manipulators seem to be at war with humanity.
    This has caused more damage and corruption at every level in the Society…. world wide!
    I pray that Milind’s voice will get echoed on all platforms where science stands for TRUTH.

    Like

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