Letters to the Editor
In a Web-savvy world, there's still room for peer-reviewed journals
Regarding the Jan. 24 article, "Is this the end of the scholarly journal?": I am an avid reader of the Monitor despite the fact that I've never seen a paper copy of it. I have only read its articles online. PLoS ONE, an online journal begun by the Public Library of Science, and JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, will not be the end of scholarly journals any more than csmonitor.com was the end of this newspaper.
The editor of a scholarly journal has a unique challenge. He must judge the credibility and originality of a paper without knowing enough about the subject to make that judgment. Peer review is the imperfect solution to that problem.
The readers of scholarly journals don't have time to sort through all the bad research out there. They will go to whatever source – be it online or on paper – where they know that they will find credible research. The opinion of someone trained in the field is still needed to make that credibility judgment. The Web will improve peer review. It won't replace it.
San Jose, Calif.
I read with great interest Bruce W. MacDonald and Charles D. Ferguson's Jan. 22 Opinion piece, "Responding to China's antisatellite test." This piece is right to caution the United States and the rest of the world about China's massive military buildup and modernization of its weapon systems. Although Beijing has continuously claimed that its massive military buildup is for defensive purposes, China continues to flaunt its growing military might.
China has already shown its willingness to risk regional peace by pointing nearly 800 missiles at Taiwan. This antisatellite test has shown that Beijing's massive military buildup is being used not only to bully and coerce its neighbors regionally but also globally. Beijing could begin targeting key communication satellites in order to try to coerce Taiwan, the US, or any other nation into submission. The US and its allies should be cautious about China and must hold China to its word about maintaining peaceful relations with all its neighbors.
Following the report of the Iraq Study Group, Helena Cobban's Dec. 14 Opinion column, "The importance of US engagement with Iran and Syria," was compelling. The Jan. 12 article, "The US moves to confront Iran and Syria," reported on Iranian and Syrian reaction to the US's failure to take the findings of the Iraq Study Group seriously. President Bush's plan for a US troop increase in Iraq and a buildup of US warships in the Persian Gulf irked both nations.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a recent diplomatic trip abroad, repeated the US refusal to talk with Iran. But the US cannot achieve its stated goal of genuine participatory governance in Iraq without appropriate engagement with Iran, since Iran enjoys strong influence in the region and the Shiites of Iraq possess electoral preponderance.
As Ms. Cobban wrote, "Washington and Tehran each have urgent needs that only the other can meet." Together, the US and Iran could achieve a measure of success acceptable to each and improve the possibilities for genuine electoral participation in a region where that has been essentially a dream.
The US should revive the art of genuine diplomacy, undertaking to remake the Middle East in appropriate cooperation with Iran.
J. Richard Irvine
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