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We read with great interest Schwab’s answer1 to “Who is Ivan Schwab?”2 We thank him for his gracious response to our original letter,3 which suggested that readers would benefit if the BJO consistently published authors’ qualifications. Although Schwab and the editors understood this to be a question of credentials to write about a subject, we maintain that this issue has more to do with giving the reader perspective. An excellent example of the need to understand the authors’ perspective comes from Schwab’s reply itself.
Schwab made the presumption that we were both ophthalmologists, which is, in fact, not correct. One of us (DP) is a medical graduate and currently a postgraduate research student. Given that the BJO does not publish authors’ qualifications, it is clear how this occurred. We propose that it is common for readers to make inferences about the authors, as Schwab did. It is reasonable and logical to consider not only the information, but its source as well. When authors’ qualifications are not explicitly stated, as in the BJO, readers can easily make erroneous presumptions about the source. Does the BJO expect its readers to make no presumptions about the backgrounds of the authors? This would seem a difficult task for the inquisitive mind. Does it matter that readers may make erroneous presumptions about the authors? We will leave this question to the reader.
It is interesting to note that, on occasion, the BJO does take care to give the reader more background on an author. For example, in an article on informed consent,4 the authors are given the designations of “solicitor” and “ophthalmologist,” respectively. Similarly, the author of an article on professional regulation,5 is given the designation “Chairman of Committee on Professional Performance, General Medical Council, Portex Professor of Anaesthesia, Institute of Child Health, London.” This supports our view that it is important for the reader to understand the perspective of the author. Thus, the BJO’s approach does not appear consistent.
In answer to Schwab: indeed, we are “reading his essays, asking questions” and will “stay tuned.”1 In fact, we hope that in due course, the BJO will publish his series as a collection. We understand that the need to conserve space limits references. However, rather than for verification, readers who have been stimulated by his writing would benefit from more references—perhaps online—to further their understanding. For example, in August 2003, Schwab referred to Land and Nilsson’s book Animal Eyes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). This is an excellent resource to improve the reader’s understanding and appreciation of his essays, particularly those describing invertebrate eyes.
Finally, we note that other BJO readers have not commented on the subject of authors’ qualifications. Perhaps, ironically, other readers think that they do not have the credentials to comment.