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October 13, 1993

Smoke and Letters

JAMA. 1993;270(14):1742-1743. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510140102038

Here lies the problem: JAMA receives four letters1-4 highly critical of a study5 we have published in JAMA. Should JAMA publish them?

First, is there really a problem? If there is, it certainly does not lie in the fact that the letters are highly critical. Such criticism presents no editorial difficulties because that is what we have to expect, and it's our job to let the authors of studies we publish duke it out with their critics in public. Indeed, I relish such letters because they so often point to issues that neither the authors nor the reviewers and editors had ever imagined, which is the best and most lasting form of peer review. They force me to reassess the published paper, and it's always interesting, and sometimes fun, to see the authors of the original article respond, whether by hitting their critics out of the ballpark, wriggling into