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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 383-384  

Fear and uncertainty around the Lancet's editorial

Department of Emergency Medicine, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, India

Date of Web Publication19-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Ishan Lamba
Department of Emergency Medicine, Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Pune - 411 018, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_238_19

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How to cite this article:
Lamba I. Fear and uncertainty around the Lancet's editorial. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2019;12:383-4

How to cite this URL:
Lamba I. Fear and uncertainty around the Lancet's editorial. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Feb 28];12:383-4. Available from: http://www.mjdrdypv.org/text.asp?2019/12/5/383/267087

On August 17, 2019, the Lancet chose to publish an editorial titled “Fear and uncertainty around the future of Kashmir.”[1] In an unprecedented move, a reputed scientific journal chose to take a political stand.

Voices of science and reason need to unite on this issue. Lancet has been a strong voice in the world of evidence-based medicine. Someone's subjective opinion should not be allowed to tarnish the legacy that a journal of such repute stands for. This editorial is unbecoming of a scientific journal. With this, Lancet has dubiously lived up to its name. This editorial, like a lancet, is a double-edged blade. Before wielding this sword, the editorial board should have thought twice. The blade has been drawn, and it has cut and cut both ways. While intending to target the political machinery in India, the journal has cut deep into their own legacy which is nearing two centuries. The Lancet is as qualified to comment on this issue as the Indian government would be to comment on the quality of articles that they have published and published well.

Men and women of science have always stood for something that is greater than our individual perceptions. The bonds of the scientific fraternity have always transcended borders and geopolitical affiliations. True men of science have stood for logic in the face of adversity. There is an implicit trust that we share among ourselves; that when all else fails, when even civilizations would collapse and even when men with power would try to mold the truth to their convenience, we, the people of science, would stand together to preserve what is moral, ethical, and factual for future generations.

With this biased and opinionated editorial, Lancet has gone against the very principles it claims to stand for. Science, by definition, is what is pure fact-based in sound logic. It is everybody's truth.

Celebrated author Devdutt Pattanaik has explained the spectrum of perception beautifully.

On one end, there is fiction – which is nobody's truth. On the other end, there is fact – which is everybody's truth. In the middle, whatever it may be, is myth.

What Lancet has allowed to blemish its pages lies in the spectrum of myth. It might be the editorial board's truth, but it definitely is far from being factual. Now had this been the editorial of The Week or The Time magazine, one could have accepted or rejected it as an opinion of a journalistic body. However that is not the case here. An institution in the scientific world has chosen to take a political stand. It is not an individual who has declared his or her affiliation but a journal which speaks to, and for, scientists globally. Lancet takes pride in their rigorous review process which is specifically designed to filter out half-truths and whole lies. It is designed in a way to deliver a journal whose innards have truly stood the test of time. However while the integrity of the articles remains intact, perhaps the same criteria should have been applied to the editorial too.

“Fear and uncertainty around Kashmir's future” has careful picked up selective data sets while attempting to analyze the ground situation in Kashmir through the eyes of a statistician. A “one size fits all” approach has been taken to analyze a situation which is far more complicated than a few formulae can comprehend. Citing the severe mental health crisis in the erstwhile state and now Union Territory of Kashmir, the article accuses the current government of the Republic of India of adding fuel to fire. While one cannot and should not be ignorant to the said issues, it has to be viewed in a historical aspect. The article has chosen to do a cross-sectional analysis of a problem in a point in time while what it required was an extensive retrospective analysis of a disease that has infected the valley for the past few decades.

If anything, this article is prejudicial and preemptive in passing a judgment that was neither required nor the journal was qualified to pass. While citing “fear and uncertainty” about the future of Kashmir, they have definitely invoked the same emotions in the hearts of the Indian scientific community regarding Lancet.

The “fear” is if one should consider this to be the opening of Pandora's box. Are scientific journals now allowed to pass commentaries on issues that lie well beyond their areas of expertise? Has the scientific community really become that hubristic? Have we really bought our own publicity?

The “uncertainty” is about the trust that we as a fraternity share. We, as clinicians and scientists, look to entities like Lancet when we are faced with questions that have evaded the best of our minds. In those moments, we look to the collective wisdom of the world of science which Lancet aspires to represent. However by publishing this article, Lancet has cast a shadow of uncertainty over that very faith that the responsible and clear minds of the world had placed in them. One cannot help but feel, in some way, a sense of betrayal.

As a young clinician who has looked to the Lancet for the light in the darkest nights of ignorance, I ask, when even the best among us have fallen, who do we look up to?

  References Top

The Lancet. Fear and uncertainty around Kashmir's future. Lancet 2019;394:542.  Back to cited text no. 1


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