Local emergency management

The editorial ``Wrong turn for nuclear policy,'' Nov. 22, criticizes President Reagan's order to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to draw up emergency response plans when a local authority fails or declines to do so. The editorial states that the order ``smacks of an attempt to reduce local participation in the planning process.'' Quite the contrary. The order should encourage participation by demonstrating that nonparticipation is ineffective as a back-door veto. R.M. Campbell, Cohasset, Mass.

There is no reason why FEMA's participation in the emergency preparedness process should reduce the importance of state and local roles. FEMA would not even be needed here if the states would act responsibly and participate in emergency planning. Any three-way cooperative effort is certain to provide the same - if not a higher - level of public participation and checks and balances as exists when state and local governments go it alone. Warren Witzig, State College, Pa.

Research censorship Regarding Robert C. Cowen's column ``Don't censor research results,'' Nov. 22: The timing of the announcement of the results of the aspirin-heart study last winter was determined by the authors and the National Institutes of Health, not by the New England Journal of Medicine. The Journal was prepared to publish the report earlier, but the authors asked to delay publication until they could personally notify all of the participants in the study.

Our policy is to let authors and their sponsors decide on the timing of announcements whenever the research results are of importance to the public. We also make it clear that authors are free to discuss with the press the work they report at scientific meetings.

We do discourage public dissemination of reports submitted to us for review before the work has been presented at a scientific meeting or published in full. We believe that - whenever possible - scientific reports should be rigorously reviewed by experts before public dissemination to avoid spreading false or premature claims.

Furthermore, a poll of our physician readers showed that the vast majority of them want the chance to study a full report before patients ask for advice about what they have heard through the media.

Some see this as ``censorship,'' but we think it is simply acting responsibly. No commercial benefits accrue to us from this policy. Arnold S. Relman, Boston New England Journal of Medicine

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