Friday, 24 June 2011

July 2010 - June 2011: One Year of Philosophical Comment Statistics

So, this is some trivia before I go on my summer holiday, but if you follow this blog, perhaps also of some interest. Although the blog started late December 2009, the statistics function wasn't activated until May 2010, and the following didn't start to reach measurable levels until June-July that year. Thus, the statistics here presented cover almost a 12 month period starting from that.

1. Number of readers/hits

Over 18.000 in total

Over 1500/month on average

Over 346/week on average

Over 49/day on average

However, the deviation from the mean with regard to especially the weekly and daily averages is pretty drastic. In particular, the means are weighted down by the rather low following the first few months, so the daily hit average nowadays normally varies between 50 and 80. To work out the general picture, here's the trend for the entire period, with figures for hits/month:

2. Most popular posts
Here, it may be interesting to see an overview for the whole period, as well as for the last month. Obviously (and perhaps not surprisingly) the post on Wikileaks continues to be the hit piece by far. On second place, I'm quite happy to see that my take on some bad signs of current bioethics research has been a popular item. A rather late coming hit scoring pretty close to that is some recent comments on the ID card folly of Finland. Behind these three, it's a tight race between several posts on rather different topics. Some of these have been starting to move up the list some time after they were posted – something I interpret as a sign of having been early on a topic of forthcoming interest to a larger crowd, such as in vitro meat or uterus transplantation.

One year

Most recent month

3. Country of readers
This is quite an interesting one for me personally. When I started, rather naturally, my readers were mostly Swedes, but pretty soon the US readership started catching on, while the UK has been a strong runner up to those two in the last 6 months or so. Otherwise, I have been pleased to find that Philosophical Comment attract readers from all over the globe. To provide some perspective, here are images displaying the proportions for the whole period as well as for the most recent month:

One year

Most recent month

So, since I'll soon be off the computer for some time (one of my tricks for achieving some real rest during the short time of a Swedish summer), I guess the only remaining thing to say is thank you. To all of you who read, link, comment, repost, and so on.

See you in six weeks or so!

Monday, 20 June 2011

More on the Ethics of Uterus Transplantation

Here are two posts that continues to ad takes on the recent news of advanced plans to conduct uterus transplantation at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in my town.

one at the Oxford Practical Ethics blog by Charles Foster that generated a bit of a discussion (with myself as one of several participants), and

another, very fresh, at the Journal of Medical Ethics blog by Iain Brassington.

In short, Foster takes the discussion to a meta-level, while Brassington wriggles it back to the floor of the clinic.


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Exercises in Hypocrisy: USA, Assad and the ICC

It is reported today in The Wall Street Journal, echoed in Swedish media, that the USA is making efforts to build a case against Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, at the International Criminal Court (ICC), located in the Hague. Now, I'm all for having al-Assad gone as Syrian leader and prosecuted for what he has been doing to his people these last months. But, I must confess that I find it grossly hypocritical, bordering on the perverse, that it is the USA that is doing the pushing in that direction.

Why? For two simple reasons that work together (sources for this can be found here, here, here):

First, the USA does not recognise the legitimacy or authority of the ICC. In fact, the USA (together with China, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Qatar and Israel) voted against the Rome Statute, establishing the court, in 1998. There was a brief moment when (through President Clinton), USA was a bona fide signatory (which can be seen as a declaration of intent of a country). However, one of the first actions of G.W. Bush was to "nullify" that executive action, thereby effectively taking the US policy re. ICC back to square one. In any case, even as signatory, the US never ratified this signature (i.e. formally recognising the authority of ICC) and does not seem bent on doing anything in that direction any time soon.

Second, the USA is continuously putting a lot of effort into undercutting the legitimacy and authority of ICC that arises out of its recognition by many other countries), by setting up special agreements of immunity with countries that do recognise ICC. I don't know what's the price for those concessions, but USA being the economically and military most powerful country in the world, I suppose there has been a few offers that couldn't be refused.

Now, I personally think that it is a sad story that a country that is holding out itself as the leading force for freedom, democracy and justice in the world is unable to see the point of having a legal institution for war crimes and crimes against humanity that is not bound to any particular national interest. However, if that is the position of the USA, so be it. However, to hold that position and at the same time make use of ICC whenever it fits the national interest of the USA, that is highly problematic for more profound reasons.

First, it is a shame- and disgraceful attitude. It is the stance of the free-rider and the parasite. It is hypocrisy taking exponential proportions. And it undermines any claim to seriousness of the US ambition to be the world's leading force for the good.

Second, and this should actually worry US citizens, the US position means that – according to US official policy – the prosecution and possible incarceration of people by an alleged legal body that the US does not see as having legitimate authority is quite alright. Feel the taste of that one and think for a bit about how to square it with the condemnation of what al-Assad, Gadaffi and those other chaps have been doing to their citizens......

Friday, 17 June 2011

Important Research is Medical - No?

As an academic and researcher in an area usually placed in the field of humanities and social sciences, I often have to answer sceptical questions about the point, importance and use of research in this general field. The contrast often held out is medicine – that's where, most people seem to think, really useful and important research is done. Research that delivers some real value for the tax-payer bucks poured into medical and science schools and research funding. In the media, such general points are usually followed by some examples of ridiculously useless humanities or social science research projects. Well, if only for that reason, it is nice to present this example (reported in Swedish media today) of where – apparently – the money paid by society and donors to advance the no doubt very important field of neurosurgery is going. Doesn't it feel comforting to know that the prospects of seriously injured comic book characters have now taken a major step forward?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Uterus Transplantation: Clinical Trial Planned in One Year from Now

In October last year, I reported about the plans of a Swedish team of medical researchers, based in my city, to conduct uterus transplantation. At the time, they had just initiated the final stage of animal experiments on large primates, to validate safety and effectiveness of the procedure.

Today, BBC aired an interview with a woman who has agreed to donate her uterus to her own daughter, who suffers from the Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome (MRKH) – one of the conditions targeted by this new procedure. The news is also presented in The Telegraph, and in Swedish media (here, here). The trial is planned to take place about one year from now at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg (my home town).

I am unsure about how far the primate trials have proceeded, but before any trial is initiated, the responsible surgeon – Mats Brännström – will, by Swedish law, have to secure ethical permission. There are several potential risk factors with the actual surgery (as acknowledged by Brännström), and also uncertainty as to how the chances of establishing a pregnancy may be affected by the various parts of the procedure, such as drugs taken to prevent the new uterus to be attacked by the recipient's immune system. Presumably, the fact that the donor is a close relative of the recipient is a part of the actions taken to reduce this last risk factor (since less of the drugs will be needed than if the donor had been genetically more distant from the recipient).

My own guess is that the team will have to present very strong evidence to the Ethics Review Board, since the procedure is not life-saving. For other ethical considerations, see my earlier post!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Continued Debate on the AJOB Matter: Laurence B. McCullough Responds to Dreger

Re. the worries around the editorial practice and policy of the American Journal of Bioethics voiced by Hilde Lindemann, the response to this by the editors of AJOB, as well as further more specific allegations made by Alice Dreger in the ensuing debate: The latest development is that Laurence B. McCullough, one of the authors of a paper, the publication of which in AJOB spurred this whole controversy, has now responded to Dreger's claims in the commentary thread at the Leiter Reports blog – in rather sharp terms at that.

Stay tuned......

AJOB Editor's Response, Plus Further Discussion and Allegations

Pertaining to the post made just a few hours ago: Just now, the Editor in Chief of the American Journal of Bioethics, Glenn McGee, together with two co-editors of the journal, has now responded to Hilde Lindemann's letter of resignation from the editorial board, sent to Professor Lindemann and posted in the comment thread of the original post of that letter. Here it is:

Dear Hilde,

We would like to thank you for your service to The American Journal of Bioethics. We accept your resignation from the Editorial Board.

We feel it is important to correct misstatements of fact made in your letter regarding the Journal and its oversight and accountability. The editorial board is called to meet annually at the meeting of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (we have met seven out of the last ten years). This past Fall, for example, you were invited by email of October 5th to attend the meeting held October 22nd in Aqua 310 at the conference hotel, the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego. All of the current information about the journal to which you refer is presented at that meeting, and the annual brochure, including acceptance rate, number of articles accessed and impact factor, is distributed. The review process for AJOB is described at and in the Journal itself.

Regarding the Target article by Drs. Larry McCullough and Frank Chervenak that accused you and several other individuals of acting unethically, the editors stand by the process and procedures by which this article was peer reviewed and published. We published Open Peer Commentary from you and the others who were mentioned in the Target article. When you and your colleagues alleged undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of the authors, the Editors appointed a Conflict of Interest Committee, per our policy, comprised of members of the editorial board. As you were made aware, it was concluded that there were no undisclosed conflicts of interest that required disclosure. No erratum was or is required.

As was stated clearly on the MCW-Bioethics listserv a few months ago, The American Journal of Bioethics is wholly owned and published by Taylor & Francis LLC. The editorial offices and the editor-in-chief own no portion of the Journal. AJOB prides itself on transparency and integrity and we are willing to provide whatever reasonable information about the operation and financing of the Journal that our editorial board requests.

While the Editorial Board of the Journal does not play a role in the day to day operations of the Journal, it serves as an important resource that the Editors call upon for guidance, help in soliciting manuscripts and peer reviewers, and to contribute to the Journal. We are very grateful for the constant help that the board has provided to help make the Journal a success. We are sorry you have chosen to resign from the Board, thank you for your service, and wish you luck.
But the discussion at Leiter Reports does not seem to be over by this. A number of posts expressing continued concern and making further, more specific, allegations have already appeared following the AJOB editors' reply.

Stay tuned for more – it seems.....

Leading Bioethics Journal's Editorial Management and Policy Questioned

A leading journal in my field of speciality, The American Journal of Bioethics, has been questioned regarding the soundness of its editorial management, administration and policies as one of its editorial board members, Hilde Lindemann, has resigned, airing doubts about the journal in a public letter, posted at Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog. The ensuing buzz in the comment thread has revived earlier criticism targetting AJOB's editor in chief, Glenn McGee, in an 2008 article in Scientific American, as well as an earlier critical discussion at Leiter's blog regarding the impressive ISI impact factor rating of AJOB. The news about this turmoil has also quickly reached into the general health sphere, through this blogpost. At the time of writing this, McGee has dismissed the doubts pertaining to AJOB's impact factor in the same comment thread, but not yet responded to Professor Hildemann's charges.

Stay tuned, I'm sure this business will offer quite a number of turns in the near future.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Read Entire Chapt. 1 of My New Book Online for Free

Springer, who publish my new book on the ethical basis of the precautionary principle, The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk, has permitted Google books to make the entire first chapter available for online reading. Here it is embedded:

And if you rather prefer that, here's a link to the Google books site. And here's a presentation of the book from a recent post, with links for sampling other chapters and look at the index.