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Lancet and Royal Society trade insults

The Kennel Club may think twice before it next holds an AGM at the London based Royal Society of Great Britain. It is composed of the 1,242 individuals who define Britain's science establishment and proudly bears the title of oldest scientific academy in the world: writes Bernie Lovitt
However, it has been locked in dispute for six years with The lancet a prestigious journal in whose pages academics have been publishing a steady stream of medical firsts and breakthroughs for almost two centuries.

This was further aired in the national press last week.

In the latest and most ferocious round of the dispute, Dr Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, accused the society of being "lazy, self-serving and parochial" and "shrill and superficial".
Stephen Cox, the society's executive secretary, denounced the "once-respected journal" for "numerous errors", "poor research" and "lax standards that endanger the health of children".

The roots of the quarrel go back to 1999 when Sir Aaron Klug, the society's then president, attacked The Lancet's publication of a now infamous paper by Dr Arpad Pusztai, the Hungarian scientist who claimed rats in his Scottish laboratory suffered damage to their organs and immune systems after being fed genetically modified potatoes.

In the latest issue, published last week, under the headline "What is the Royal Society for?" Dr Horton argues that the eminent body has produced little of public value in medicine and public health in recent times, and calls for an immediate and radical review of its role.

In a lengthy defence, executive secretary Mr Stephen Cox says the society's fellows include Britain's nine living Nobel prize-winners in physiology or medicine, and highlights its funding of research fellowships and professorships, its issuing of advice on subjects such as animal research, cloning, stem cells and nanotechnology, and its publication of five internationally respected journals.

The Lancet, with 25,000 print subscribers and 1,165,000 million registered online users, is one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world.

The Royal Society of Great Britain’s origins lie in a group of natural philosophers who began meeting in the 1640s to discuss the ideas of Francis Bacon.

It was founded on Nov 28, 1660, when, following a lecture by Christopher Wren, a group of 12 including Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, Sir Robert Moray, and William, Viscount Brouncker, decided to start ‘a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning’.

Former presidents include Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton and Ernest Rutherford.Come to think about it - it may have been entirely appropriate for the Kennel Club to use the place!