Noncanonical science reports: to whom and what for?

Scientific knowledge advances by a continuous cycle of hypothesis formulation and testing, whose ultimate goal is to provide society with facts, evidence, and rigorous statements on natural phenomena. Sometimes, serendipitous and discovery research findings can accelerate the scientific pace, which has also gained impulse by technological breakthroughs starting in the middle of XX century. The result of this process is a collective intellectual effort that both consolidates concepts (the canons) and refutes them when unexplained phenomena arise (revolutions, anti-canons). In a broad sense, especially in fields other than science, a canon may define a knowledge body that has been approved and accepted by an expert group meaning that nobody else except the group member themselves are allowed to contribute to the dominant thought. Challenging the canons and their hierarchies with novel ideas is considered an undesirable behaviour. Scientific activity cannot accept such a rule with the risk of having no discussions, no advancement, no innovation, and no enlightenment. In the realm of science there must be skepticism, doubts, and freedom to defy the canons and to advance new hypothesis and explanations. However, canons in science can be important because they could be a starting point for discussion on new phenomena and unexpected findings, whether they are: serendipitous, technological, discovery, or hypothesis driven. What is a canon today might in the past have been a revolutionary concept, a suspicious finding, or a novel explanation to a widely accepted phenomenon.

But how to identify a manuscript that defies the canons, that is indeed disruptive? It is an easy task when the available information is neither overwhelming nor redundant. But scientific activity today is like the flooding produced by heavy rain: we see it, we feel it, we more or less forecast it, but to prevent it effectively from causing harm is another story. We live in a world of manuscript flooding, and our efforts to select the outstanding manuscripts have to cope with the now famous (or infamous) adage: “publish or perish”. In the end, the definitive solution to this problem comes from our readers: only their collective wisdom confirm a view, concept, or experimental result deemed as interesting by both editors and reviewers in an article pretentiously alternative or (very rarely) noncanonical.

If we are unable to get rid of the uncertainty about the fortune of our published manuscripts, at least we can suggest some of them as an interesting reading in the 2015 [110(8)] issue of Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz: (i) Behavioural alterations are independent of sickness behaviour in chronic experimental Chagas disease, by Vilar-Pereira et al., and (ii) Opisthorchiasis in infant remains from the medieval Zeleniy Yar burial ground of XII-XIII centuries AD, by Slepchenko et al.

Technically simple or not, these papers are examples of the diligent effort that thousands of researchers around the world are undertaking to enlarge the “knowledge road” and expand the frontiers of science.

The Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz is a centennial journal that is restricted to the field of human infectious diseases, where the pressure for immediate solutions constrains the flow of disruptive findings. Occasionally Memórias publishes noncanonical findings, and on a regular basis our readers find in our pages incremental solutions and conceptual discussions about the most challenging infectious diseases. Nevertheless, alternative views about parasites, their vectors, and hosts may appear in the research reports that we publish in each issue. They might not be the kind of revolutionary research work that the competitive arenas wishes for, instead they accomplish the laborious task of paving the coarse road opened up by innovators in this field. Sometimes one or two of these reports unexpectedly ruptures the rigid boundaries defined by canonical knowledge and confounds the minds of researchers. That is one among many goals of this journal: give readers (and researchers) different perspectives on the scientific challenges in the field of infectious diseases. If they defy the canons, so much the better!

Adeilton Alves Brandão | Editor


Vilar-Pereira G, Ruivo LAS, Lannes-Vieira J 2015. Behavioural alterations are independent of sickness behaviour in chronic experimental Chagas disease. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 110: 1042-1050.

Slepchenko SM, Gusev AV, Ivanov SN, Svyatova EO 2015. Opisthorchiasis in infant remains from the medieval Zeleniy Yar burial ground of XII-XIII centuries AD, Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 110: 974-980.

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