Up against the gatekeepers

Chapter 8 of Suppression Stories by Brian Martin (Wollongong: Fund for Intellectual Dissent, 1997), pages 117-133.

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Probably my most useful contribution to the struggle against intellectual suppression has been my writing. Others put more energy into the vitally important tasks of providing advice and moral support, organising campaigns and pursuing cases through various channels. I've done a bit in each of these other areas, but where I've made special efforts is in writing substantial pieces of analysis and getting them published.

Anyone who wants to do this faces several obstacles. One of them, surprisingly, is fear. I speak here of academics, who are expected to publish results of their research. But quite a few are afraid to submit articles to journals. Some of them fear rejection. Others are afraid that when an article is published, everyone will see how inadequate it is.

There is an extra problem in writing about suppression. It means taking up the cause of people who are challenging powerful interests. Many editors and referees are likely to be extra critical. The published work may not win any friends in high places. This is not a prescription for career advancement.

To even use the term "suppression" is to make a value judgement. To express concern about suppression is to take a stand, to be a partisan for a person under threat and to challenge the official story. Many journal editors and referees don't like this. They may believe in objectivity. They may want to know why you haven't also told the story from the other side's perspective. They may be postmodernists who want to know how the meanings of the events are socially constructed by all people involved. In any case, they are uncomfortable with open commitment.

I try to treat publication like a game. If one of my articles is rejected, I try not to take it personally. The question is, what is the next move? I've developed a high tolerance for having submissions rejected - which is not to say that I enjoy it! This is essential for anyone seeking publication of controversial ideas.

I learned the value of persistence from the example of my original PhD supervisor, Bob May, in the Department of Theoretical Physics at Sydney University. Bob was an incredibly talented applied mathematician who started out in physics - for example nuclear physics and statistical mechanics - and was not afraid of moving into other fields. When I joined the department, he was just getting involved with mathematical ecology, and before long he took the top job in biology at Princeton, later moving to Oxford.

While I was there, Bob had the idea of applying statistical mechanics theory to voting in order to show why so many votes in small groups are unanimous or nearly so. He worked out the mathematical model and asked me to write a computer program to calculate the results. After familiarising himself with key writings in the area, he wrote up an article and sent it off, under both our names, to one of the top political science journals, American Political Science Review. Three referees' reports came back, with mixed reports. The editor said we could resubmit. We revised the article. It went to one old referee and one new one: rejection. Bob was convinced the article was a good one, and so tried another top journal, Behavioral Science. This time it was rejection the first time. The editor sent a copy of the report of referee #5. Bob would have none of this. He sent a strong letter to the editor, saying the referee #5's report was "completely incompetent." The editor sought further opinions but couldn't reach consensus. As junior author of the paper, I watched with fascination, meanwhile revising and augmenting the paper through its journey. Finally, several years down the track, we were successful on the third try with a more specialised journal, Public Choice.

This early experience taught me several things. The first was the value of persistence. The second was to believe in my own judgement of the quality of a piece of work. The third was not to be afraid to submit work in fields outside my own training. Perhaps I would have learned these lessons anyway, but the experience with the voting model article certainly set me on the right track. By the time I started writing about suppression, I had enough experience in the publishing game not to get discouraged.


Writing about suppression

In chapters 2 and 3 I described how I collect information about suppression and put it together for an article. I obtain information about the cases described from various sources: through interviews, from source documents and from newspapers and magazines. If there are any important gaps or contradictions, I seek further information. Then, based on my study of social theory, I put the cases in the context of a wider analysis of the issues at stake.

Having written a draft of an article, I send it to various people for comments and use their suggestions to prepare a version to submit to a journal. But which one? This is an important decision. Often I spend time at one or more libraries, browsing through the current periodicals section, looking for journals that might be suitable. After considering the options, I prepare a list of potential places to send the article. Also, I consult with friends, weighing up the pros and cons of different outlets.

Often the choice comes down to a trade-off between impact and the likelihood of publication. I try for the journal with the greatest impact where there is a reasonable chance of publication. Publication in the New York Times would have enormous impact, but - even assuming that I wrote a newspaper-style article - there is no chance of being published there, given that I'm an unknown academic writing from Australia. On the other hand, publication in a local newsletter might be easy but have little impact.

For my first article on suppression, "The power structure of science and the suppression of environmental scholarship," I decided to start at the top. I sent it to Science, a journal with enormous impact. When I had a letter-to-the-editor published in Science about the dismissal of John Coulter from the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, several people wrote to me as a result, which is several more than write as a result of most of my major scholarly articles! By all rights, Science was the place for an article about suppression of dissent in science. I didn't expect success, but I wanted to give the journal a chance. In writing about suppression I take the view that the response of editors and referees says more about them than about my writing.

On 8 May 1980, the editor of Science, Philip H. Abelson, wrote back saying that unfortunately they had a substantial backlog of accepted articles and therefore they could not handle my article at that time, and accordingly he was returning my manuscript. If I had wanted to press on, I could have resubmitted the article saying that I was prepared to wait for publication if it was accepted. But reading between the lines, I assumed that Abelson didn't like my article but didn't have the courage to say so. Would the journal of the scientific establishment publish an article critical of the "power structure of science"? Not this time. I decided to cut my losses and try elsewhere.

Next was Social Studies of Science, a prestigious academic journal about the social dynamics of science. The editor, David Edge, wrote on 31 July saying that I might be better to try the Ecologist, which I had mentioned to him as an alternative. First, there was a backlog of accepted articles which meant a delay of at least a year. Second, the Ecologist would give more visibility than Social Studies of Science. Third, the referees might be critical. They were. While most scientists are well aware of the sorts of processes of which suppression forms a part, many social scientists refuse to be convinced of even a single case of suppression without a wealth of evidence, detailed analysis of the social context, attention to how the legitimacy or illegitimacy of actions is socially constructed by those who make them or view them, and so forth. The very term suppression is a signal to be suspicious.

As a result of this hypercritical attitude, most social science journals have never published any studies of suppression, even though suppression is fundamental to their fields of study, or so I would argue. Suppression of dissent in science is crucial to understanding the maintenance of current scientific elites and their patrons, but this is seldom even alluded to in social analyses of science. Suppression was involved in the very foundation of the social sciences. In the 1800s in the United States, sociology, economics and political science gained legitimacy by allowing radical dissidents to lose their jobs and credibility.

In any case, I next tried the Ecologist, a British magazine treating environmental and social issues from a general viewpoint critical of many features of industrial civilisation. In 1980 it took on the scholastic apparatus of footnotes and published some quite lengthy articles, though there was no refereeing. So it seemed suitable. Before I even received a letter in response, a couple of copies of the January-February 1981 issue arrived, with my article in it. Success! This was a satisfying surprise. However, it disturbed me that the article had been edited - mainly by being shortened - without my permission, though the deletions and minor changes were well done, with one exception.

The road to publication of my next major article on suppression was much easier. After reading Marlene Dixon's book Things Which Are Done in Secret about suppression of radical sociologists at McGill University in Canada, I was able to contact her at the Institute for the Study of Labor and Economic Crisis in San Francisco. She recommended me to Tony Platt, the editor of Crime and Social Justice, an academic Marxist criminology journal published in San Francisco. Platt wrote to me in March 1982 inviting me to submit an article about academic suppression. After some correspondence, I submitted in September an article on suppression of dissident experts. It was published in mid 1983.

Being invited to write an article for a journal may seem like a sure road to publication, and perhaps it is for some people. My experience is different. In a number of cases I've been invited to write an article only to have it rejected. For example, Alastair Gunn, a co-editor of a new journal, Waikato Environment, published in Hamilton, New Zealand, wrote to me in March 1981 inviting me to write a short article on "environmental research and the establishment." I suggested that he might use one of my existing articles on suppression, such as my talk to the National Science Forum. He replied saying that Waikato Environment would not be able to use any of my articles. He consulted several Waikato scientists, of all shades of opinion, and they agreed that my articles did not accurately reflect the situation in Waikato. Indeed, they reported, several university scientists had been studying the adverse effects of lead in petrol and their careers had not been hurt.

This wasn't too convincing to me. I never said that every scientist doing work threatening to a powerful interest group is suppressed. Only some are. And how did these Waikato scientists know that there was no suppression there? Had they really searched? Even if there was none, why didn't they want to hear about suppression elsewhere? I was thankful that I hadn't gone to the trouble of writing a new article for the journal.


The book Intellectual Suppression

Cedric Pugh worked in economics at the South Australian Institute of Technology. In the late 1970s he publicly challenged the institute's administration concerning a number of its policies. He believed that this was the reason why he was singularly unsuccessful in gaining promotion to senior lecturer in spite of his excellent record of academic performance. I met Cedric during my visit to Adelaide in 1980, and we corresponded at length afterwards. He mounted an effective campaign for promotion, getting supporters to write to the administration and newspapers and stimulating quite a bit of publicity. In the end he was successful.

In the midst of his struggle, Cedric wrote to me in July 1981 suggesting that he, Clyde Manwell and I prepare a book proposal for an edited volume on discrimination in Australian academic and research organisations. I quickly responded with a tentative list of chapters, and suggested adding Ann Baker - Clyde's wife - to the group of editors. Thus began a major enterprise. It is just as well I didn't imagine then how much work would be involved, since otherwise I might have declined to be involved.

We discussed possible contributors and topics. Each of us planned to write chapters. Some articles could be reprinted, such as Peter Springell's article in Arena about his difficulties in CSIRO. Others would be invited to contribute. I took the lead in correspondence, setting up the framework of chapters and inviting contributors. Clyde soon suggested that I be "editor-in-chief."

Eventually in August 1982 we had a proposal to send to publishers. It included a summary, outline of contents, information about the authors, and several sample articles illustrating our sort of approach. Our title at that stage was "Suppression of intellectual dissent in the 'free world'." University of Queensland Press quickly rejected it because "the market for such a book would be slight and publication uneconomic." The Australian office of Oxford University Press followed suit, saying "We do of course see the interesting and controversial nature of your theme and material, but I'm afraid we are not convinced that we are the right house to turn all this into a commercial proposition." The Australian editorial office of Cambridge University Press simply said they weren't interested. These sorts of responses did not worry me. I was used to rejections by book publishers.

With Angus & Robertson we struck it lucky. I suspected that the publisher, Richard Walsh, would be sympathetic because of his own experiences. Only a couple of years earlier, in November 1980, he and George Munster had published a book, Documents on Australian Defence and Foreign Policy 1968-75. It reprinted secret briefings, cables and memoranda by Australian government bureaucrats concerning sensitive issues such as Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. The Australian government heard about it and placed an injunction on the book the day it was published. The injunction also covered two newspapers, the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, that were running extracts the same day. The injunction was just a little too late, and quite a few copies of the book and the newspapers were sold or distributed.

For the Australian government to place an injunction like this was highly unusual, to say the least. The government obviously wanted to suppress information about its activities on sensitive issues and was willing to engage in open censorship, causing much bad publicity, to do so. The validity of the injunction was decided by the High Court, which ruled that the Crimes Act was not relevant in this case but copyright was - remember that the book reproduced government documents in full. So Munster and Walsh later produced a book which gave the essence of the secret documents by means of summaries and short quotations.

I suspected that Richard Walsh would be sympathetic to our book proposal, because he knew from personal experience what suppression was all about. That's what happened. After requesting further information, he gave the go-ahead, accompanied by many suggestions, to be sure.

We got to work. I solicited the proposed chapters and wrote the ones that were assigned to me. Ann, Clyde and Cedric wrote their chapters, and we circulated all drafts to each other. It sounds straightforward, but was far from easy. Ann and Clyde were together in Adelaide, while Cedric was working in Singapore most of the time. Actually, Cedric was quite prompt. My biggest problem was keeping the length down. Ann and Clyde could not keep to a word limit. Their writing was always filled with fascinating material, but just got longer and longer. Even though a couple of prospective contributors never came up with their chapters, the book ended up being about 160,000 words. (This one, for comparison, is about 60,000 words.)

The first part of the book was case studies. On several of the chapters dealing with recent cases, I sent a draft to a relevant official with an offer to publish a response. For example, Evan Jones and Frank Stilwell wrote an excellent chapter on the difficulties encountered by proponents of political economy at the University of Sydney. This major academic battle had received considerable attention in the media but no systematic account was available. I sent a copy of Jones and Stilwell's chapter to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney inviting a reply from him or any other appropriate person. He sent me a letter with some dismissive comments about the chapter - but this was not for publication. I wrote a postscript to the chapter telling in a couple of sentences about my offer to the Vice-Chancellor and the fact that he offered nothing for publication.

Most of the postscripts were like this. In only a couple of cases did institutional representatives provide substantive comments for publication, and in these cases we gave the author of the chapter a chance to reply. After the book was published, several readers said that they found the lack of response from institutions the most damning comment of all.

Sending the draft chapters to institutional representatives also helped to avoid defamation. As a result of circulating drafts of chapters, we received only one threat, from a minor character in one of Ann and Clyde's chapters. They responded by enlarging their account of the relevant events and providing lots of supporting references. Needless to say, Angus & Robertson's lawyer went through the manuscript most carefully, but didn't find much to worry about.

Richard Walsh didn't like our original title - it was too long - nor a later one, "Academic suppression." He preferred "Intellectual suppression," which tied it less to the academic market. The book finally appeared in 1986 under the title Intellectual Suppression: Australian Case Histories, Analysis and Responses. It received quite a few reviews in newspapers and journals, mostly favourable. It resulted in a few media interviews, but a treatment in such length and depth is not the best way to stimulate media coverage. The most important role of the book was to provide a solid reference for those who were really interested - especially people who were subject to suppression themselves.

All but one of the contributors donated their shares of the modest royalties to a newly established Fund for Intellectual Dissent. This came in handy a couple of years later, when Angus & Robertson remaindered the book. The original print run was 2400 copies, with a retail price of $20. About 1000 were sold and a few hundred went for reviews and promotion. "Remaindering" meant that remaining copies were to be sold off at a nominal price, in our case $1.20 each. We used the Fund monies to buy up most of the remaindered copies. As it turned out, we had the best of both worlds, since the publisher's stock then was low enough so that they kept the book in print. Some years later Angus & Robertson, Australia's largest publisher, was taken over by Collins, which sold off the remaining stock of Intellectual Suppression without even telling me. Tom Thompson, the publisher of Collins whom I met at a conference in 1990 where we were each speaking, said I should have been consulted, but nothing came of his promise to look into it.

Because of our purchase of remaindered copies in 1988, I had hundreds of copies in my office. We made these available free to interested individuals. My main aim was to get copies to people who really needed them, especially people overseas, where it had received almost no promotion by Angus & Robertson. I've sent out many copies in the years since, and now there are only a few remaining.

It seems appropriate that the Fund for Intellectual Dissent, set up with royalties from Intellectual Suppression, is the publisher of Suppression Stories. For Suppression Stories, there are no royalties and all proceeds will be used to provide copies to those who need them the most.

Over the years, several people have suggested that I should edit Intellectual Suppression, Volume Two. I politely decline each offer. They have no idea of the work involved, nor of how difficult it is to find a publisher. Mauricio Schoijet, a Mexican researcher who has come under attack by his university, even proposed a project documenting suppression in every country in the world the way that we dealt with suppression in Australia. An amazing project it would be!

Undoubtedly there is an important place for lengthy, highly detailed and highly referenced accounts of suppression. I'm glad that Intellectual Suppression saw the light of day. But for writing about suppression, it is usually a more effective use of energy to produce articles.


More articles

As described in chapter 3, my contact with Dhirendra Sharma stimulated me to write the article "Nuclear suppression." After completing it, I first sent it to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which by all rights should have been most interested, given that it was set up by nuclear scientists concerned about misuse of nuclear technology and has a mildly progressive stance on a number of issues. But I have never had any success with the Bulletin. Years ago, the editor-in-chief, Bernard Feld, had solicited an article from me, which had then been rejected unceremoniously ("we have no space for your article"). "Nuclear suppression" received the same treatment. The editor said nothing about the content of my article, but simply referred to lack of space as the reason for not publishing it. The article was eventually published in Science and Public Policy in 1986 and led to a fair bit of media coverage.

Around the same time, I worked on an article called "Dissent and its difficulties." I took three areas - nuclear power, fluoridation and terrorism - and described the obstacles facing those who presented dissident views. I argued that several "principles of scholarly practice" were violated by proponents of certain standard views, leading to "asymmetries" in public debate.

First, proponents often fail to provide information, as when proponents of standard views of terrorism fail to provide sources for their statements. Second, they often decline to enter into rigorous debate, as when Edward Herman's critiques of standard views on terrorism are ignored. Third, they rely on their formal status, such as being head of a government. Fourth, they attack the personal credibility of their critics, as when critics of state terrorism are called dupes of communists.

I sent my paper to Social Theory and Practice in September 1985. The chair of the editorial committee wrote back saying that it wasn't appropriate for their journal, which had a circulation of only about 650 and was read mainly by philosophy academics and students. He said that "Since your paper deals with political and moral issues of wide concern, it would reach a much larger and more suitable readership if it were published in a high circulation journal of politics." The trouble is, there are no such high circulation journals that publish lengthy articles with lots of footnotes. I also sent it to Social Science Quarterly, but it was rejected out of hand for being too long. Dhirendra Sharma was enthusiastic and quickly published it in his journal Philosophy and Social Action under the title "Science policy: dissent and its difficulties."

Few academic journals have a large circulation. Over a few thousand subscriptions is doing very well. The impact comes through visibility. A prestigious journal is read by more people than ever subscribe. Library copies are scanned by some people and others search through data bases for titles in areas that interest them. Social Theory and Practice was certainly selling itself short by suggesting that I would be better to try elsewhere.

Wide circulation magazines do have an impact, sometimes an enormous impact. But getting something published in one of them is no easy matter.

Habitat Australia is a monthly magazine distributed to all members of the Australian Conservation Foundation. It has a circulation of some 25,000 - enormous by Australian standards. Many of its articles are accompanied by photographs of beautiful nature scenes.

The editor, Merrilyn Julian, was interested in an article on suppression. I talked with her at some length about it during a trip to Melbourne. My article included many cases of suppression of Australian environmental scientists, with some general analysis. I tried to write it in an accessible style. But it wasn't exactly what Merrilyn - who also consulted others - wanted. I ended up doing two major rewrites of the article. At least it was published. I've been told by others that they did major rewrites only to have their articles rejected by Habitat. Sometimes it's easier to deal with refereed journals!

My Habitat article, published in 1992, had a big impact. Mark Diesendorf, then working for the Australian Conservation Foundation, said it generated more correspondence than anything published in Habitat for several years. Quite a few people wrote directly to me. At least some of the readers appreciated a story without any pretty nature pictures.

My offer to write for Newsweek came through personal contact. When in New York in 1991, I met Sharon Begley, science editor of Newsweek. She contacted me in early 1993 to see if I would be interested in writing a guest opinion column for the new monthly science supplement that goes to US subscribers and is picked up by the international editions of the magazine. My first thought for a topic was intellectual suppression.

Not only did Newsweek sub-editors go through my prose, fixing it up and putting it in house style, but Newsweek researchers checked up the facts on every case I mentioned, contacting key people to check details. One example I had listed, involving the International Rice Research Institute, had to be dropped because I had no way of contacting the author of the story on which I had based my thumbnail sketch. I had a lengthy phone conversation with a Newsweek lawyer, which led to further modifications in the text. I thought I was pretty thorough, but this level of scrutiny, for a story just 1000 words long, was something new. The article appeared in the 26 April edition, at least in the New Zealand edition a correspondent sent me. By publishing this article with names and claims, Newsweek showed a lot more courage than most academic journals I've dealt with. Of course they have more money to have people check facts and provide legal advice, but they also have much more to lose.

Surprisingly, the Newsweek article didn't generate a big response, so far as I could tell. A few people told me they saw it, and a few people wrote to me. Having a big international circulation, it's much harder to know what impact the article had.

My guess is that discussions of suppression have greatest impact when they deal with cases that are directly relevant to the experience or interests of the readers. This was the case with my articles in the Ecologist and Habitat - they are about suppression of environmental scientists, in journals read by people concerned with environmental issues. But in many cases the journals that would be most relevant are controlled by people who don't want discussion of this topic. This seems to have been the case with Science and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among others.


I'm a gatekeeper too!

So far I've described some of the methods I've used to get past editors and referees, the "gatekeepers" in publishing. Basically it boils down to working hard to present a strong case and write a good article, and being persistent. But there's another way to view my efforts. From the point of view of those who think they have been suppressed and are looking for a champion, I am a sort of gatekeeper too.

For anyone who wants to oppose suppression of dissent, there is a virtually unlimited choice of topics and cases. Choosing where to devote your efforts can be difficult. My choices have been influenced by the types of cases that I've happened to investigate and sometimes by invitations to write articles. For example, I wrote my article "Nuclear suppression" after finding out about Dhirendra Sharma's case but wrote for Newsweek after receiving a general invitation from the science editor.

But what about topics? What about suppression of feminists, suppression of free-market fundamentalists, suppression of radical theologians and suppression of police whistleblowers? Looking back at areas I've studied over the years, there seem to be some guideposts for choosing topics. I prefer to tackle areas that I know about personally, hence my special interest in cases in science and academia. I prefer areas where there is a pattern of suppression, such as fluoridation and pesticides, since these sorts of cases lend themselves to a more general analysis of the role of power and special interests. I prefer areas where dissent has some social value, for example in defending the environment or oppressed groups. I also prefer areas that are interesting. The issues raised by the theory of the origin of AIDS from polio vaccines are fascinating, and there's social value involved too. A case of blocked promotion in a government bureaucracy would not be nearly so intriguing - though the dynamics of bureaucracy can be surprisingly engrossing.

Whatever my preferences, they can be overridden by circumstance. Sometimes someone tells me about a case and I decide to follow it up. The Spautz case is an example.

This brings up a vexing issue: so-called "fringe" areas. Occasionally I'm asked to have a look at a scientific theory that allegedly has been suppressed. Of course, most of the cases I've looked at are "fringe" from someone or other's point of view. Early environmentalists were thought by establishment scientists to not really be doing science. Antifluoridationists have been stigmatised as cranks. The theory that AIDS came from contaminated polio vaccines is thought by many scientists to be crazy. The question is not whether to take up cases or theories that are considered "fringe" topics by the establishment. It is to decide how far I'm willing to go myself.

In the AIDS field itself, there are numerous competing theories. One that received a fair bit of attention, though still encountering enormous hostility, is that HIV - the so-called AIDS virus - is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause AIDS. Another is that AIDS originated from a biological warfare lab. And so it goes.

Then there are the inventors who claim to have discovered a source of unlimited energy. Out further on the fringe - at least by my reckoning - are claims that the moon landings did not occur but were simulated in a television studio and claims that the earth is hollow and populated on the inside too.

In deciding which topics to take up, at some stage I have to rely on my own assessment of the merits of the theory. I look for evidence that an unorthodox viewpoint is backed up by logical arguments and evidence. And I listen to what the defenders of orthodoxy say about it. Often their arguments make sense.

My view is that the craziest claims should be given some opportunity to be expressed and should be rejected on the basis of reasoned argument rather than arbitrary censorship. Take the case of Velikovsky, who proposed that many historical events and observed phenomena were due to other planets in the solar system moving out of their normal orbits and coming close to the earth. From the time of his first book, Worlds in Collision published in 1950, his writings were greeted with scorn by the scientific establishment. There were a number of instances when supporters of Velikovsky's ideas lost their jobs or were otherwise suppressed. Then and now, all but a few scientists would say that Velikovsky was wrong. But the way they attacked Velikovsky's work may actually have been counterproductive. Leroy Ellenberger, a Velikovsky supporter who later changed his mind, wrote me that the scientific community made a big mistake by not putting the necessary work into a detailed refutation of Velikovsky's theory - something that only happened decades later.

Scientists "knew" that Velikovsky was wrong because his theories violated established principles in several fields. They denounced Velikovsky because his books gained a wide popular following. This did not improve the image of the scientific community. The scientific establishment behaved like defenders of dogma rather than adherents of the "scientific method" involving organised scepticism, careful experiment and logical argument.

The Velikovsky affair points to an important aspect of suppression: it can occur even when the suppressed views are wrong - according to some later assessment. Of course, scientists have to get on with their work and don't have time to investigate every unorthodox theory that comes their way. But the dilemma is not really as difficult as scientists make out. Most of them never investigate any unorthodox theories with an open mind. If most of them just spent a little time doing this, it would do wonders for the public image of scientific open-mindedness and might even reveal a few worthwhile ideas. The suspicion of those who are wary of science is always that those few worthwhile ideas are actually a threat to vested interests within science.

Even for someone like myself who arguably spends a fair bit of time examining "fringe" ideas, choices have to be made. I can only follow up a small fraction of the areas that are brought to my attention. Often I have to say, "Thanks for sending me material about your case, but unfortunately I'm too busy to help." What I can do is describe how to go about challenging suppression.

When people contact me about suppression, often I end up giving the same sort of advice. So I thought it would be useful to write down the basic points and get them published. I wrote an article titled "Letter to a dissident scientist" and submitted it to the journal American Scientist in January 1994. The editor replied shortly thereafter saying that it would take a few weeks to deal with it. Months passed and I wrote to find out what was happening. The editor assured me that I would be notified when a decision was made. Months passed. I wrote again. No response. I sent another letter that was not answered. Finally I asked a US colleague, David Hess - who has written about suppression of parapsychologists - to ring the editor. He did so in September 1995. This prompted a response and a promise by the editor to try to deal with referees' comments in the next month. After hearing nothing for several months, I wrote again, pointing out that it had been two years since my article was submitted. The editor responded this time, apologising for the "extraordinary delay." But the decision was to reject the article, since it did not fit the format expected by the journal.



Publishing articles and books about suppression serves several functions. It provides support to dissidents: it is greatly encouraging for them to understand that their experiences are part of a wider pattern. Publishing provides legitimacy to the suppressed points of view and more generally to dissent. Publishing helps to build networks between dissenters, since articles provide a trigger and mechanism for them to find out about each other.

Publishing articles and books about suppression is often difficult. Great care is needed to make sure everything is as accurate as possible and that relevant people have a chance to comment. Probably the most important thing is persistence. Rejections can be depressing. All one can do is keep trying.

Is there suppression of information about suppression? It's hard to know. From my experience, getting something published is often difficult even when there is nothing controversial about it. I've often been impressed by how many editors and publishers are keen to take up the issue. The greatest difficulty is not a lack of sympathetic publishers but a lack of people to investigate suppression in the first place.