It beggars belief that the leader of the free world and the world’s policeman, the President of the United States, thinks that torture is not a bad thing. On the campaign trail he insisted several times that torture works and that even if it didn’t “they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”
Now that he is in office, however, Mr Trump seems to be having a two-way bet. While personally in favour of waterboarding, he is deferring to the opinion of his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, a tough and experienced soldier, who says that it does not work. In this way, he keeps faith both with voters who want him to be tough on terrorism and voters who want him to rebuild the military.
So the upshot of this week’s confusing news about a draft executive order from the President permitting “enhanced interrogation” techniques is that no one really knows what he believes. But it is an ominous sign that Mr Trump’s moral compass is so weak that he resiles from repudiating torture, keeping it in reserve as a potential vote-winner. In a civilised society which respects human dignity, torture should be absolutely unthinkable.
As commentators decry ‘sexism in academia’, it’s useful to consider how bioethics journals fare among peer-reviewed science journals.
Generalised science journals, new research shows, have a major gender disparity in the peer-review process. A study in Nature co-authored by Jory Lerback, a University of Utah graduate student, and Brooks Hanson, director of publications at the American Geophysical Union (AGU), shows that between 2012 and 2015, only 20% of reviewers of papers in the AGU journals were women. This contrasts with the 28% female AGU membership and the 27% of female first authors on AGU papers during the same period. Nature itself says that in 2015 only 22% of its reviewers were women.
There is limited public domain data on peer review in bioethics journals. Nevertheless, if we take the Journal of Medical Ethics (JME) as representative of bioethics generally, the discipline is faring comparatively well. The JME recently published a list of its reviewers for 2016. A quick survey of the data reveals that roughly 40% (256/633) were female. While not exactly achieving gender parity, this is significantly higher than similar data from many science journals.
Interestingly, the representation of women on the editorial board of the JME is lower (8 out of 26, or roughly 30%) than female representation in the journal’s peer review process.
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