The In-Between

By Julie Heng

The Paradox of Peer Review

Peer review, which can be traced back to the 18th century, originated as a publicity stunt. The Royal Society of London began a tradition of having well-known scientists write reports on new scientific manuscripts to increase the visibility of science.

It was only in the 20th century that peer reviewers alongside editors were imagined as scientific gatekeepers “to ensure the integrity of the scientific literature as a whole,” as Harvard History of Science professor Alex Csiszar wrote in a commentary in Nature.

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How We Move Forward

It is no secret that polarization has increased hostility and even altered perceptions of reality. A new study in Science shows that Democrats’ and Republicans’ antipathy for each other has even surpassed their support for those who vote the same way.

But perhaps certain factors make our country’s polarization appear worse than it is. It has been suggested, for example, that the “unusual bipartisanship” of the 1950s featured intra-party divisions similar to our inter-party divisions that make current times seem more heated. It also seems like politicians often make logical appeals to extremes, and that the highly partisan are often louder than the likely more moderate majority.

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Journaling Through the Semester

When I first checked my on-campus mailbox this year, I was surprised to find, alongside three COVID-19 tests, a hard-bound Class of 2024 journal. The journal — courtesy of the Harvard Journal Project — is black with an elastic band and ribbon bookmark, features a textured Veritas Shield on the front, and smells like fresh newsprint on a winter morning.

Such journals were distributed, either in on-campus mailboxes or by national or international mail, to all 1,415 freshmen who enrolled this year. Many students may cynically see such journals as superficial or pointless, but as someone who’s journaled off and on since the second grade, I think they’re brilliant.

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What Science and Society Owe Each Other

The War on Cancer is not new. It began in 1971, after President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act. A couple decades later, President Clinton claimed that the Human Genome Project was set to “revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all, human diseases,” including the likes of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, and cancer. In 2003, National Cancer Institute director Andrew von Eschenbach assured Congress that given a $600 million budget each year, the NCI could “eliminate suffering and death” from cancer by 2010.

Billions, if not trillions, of dollars, hundreds of targets, and several multinational campaigns later, the cancer mortality rate has barely changed — and certainly not to the extent promised. But the overpromises keep coming: The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative announced their goal to mitigate all disease by the end of the century, and President Barack Obama claimed in his 2016 State of the Union that this time’s ”Cancer Moonshot” would get us to a cure.

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What the Presidential Candidates Can Learn from Student Debaters

We can argue about who won the first presidential debate, but it’s pretty clear who lost: America.

People across the political spectrum and almost all undecided voters agreed: It was chaos. There were 741 aggressive interruptions during the 90-minute debate, which featured spectacle and self-aggrandizement over facts and reasoning.

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