Introduction – The Shaken Baby Debate
By Stuart MacDonald
This debate on shaken baby syndrome (SBS – now often called ‘abusive head trauma’) is the latest (and probably the last) Prometheus debate. Over the years, these debates have explored such areas as the role of scientific advice in shaping government drug policy; the impact of British libel laws on innovation, and what is going wrong with our universities, areas in which innovation was central and where there was need for a critical, social science perspective. Prometheus offers an academic forum for its debates in which some of the constraints of academic discourse areloosened to allow free flow of ideas. Participants are not, for instance, required to explain a methodology or present a literature review. Prometheus debates were themselves an innovation and apparently a successful one in that they attracted much attention. The mechanism is simple, though strict: the general editor approaches an individual at the heart of a relevant controversy. Possibilities are discussed and a draft proposition paper produced. Meanwhile, the general editor casts a wide net – well beyond the obvious academics – inviting knowledgeable individuals to write response papers. Only once individuals have shown an interest in a project are they sent a copy of the draft proposition paper. Authors of response papers write as individuals (not as representatives of organisations) and are not told who else is writing or has been approached. Similarly, the author of the proposition paper is not told who is writing response papers or even who has been invited – and certainly does not suggest possible respondents. Only on publication do debate authors discover the identity of the other authors.
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Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 35, Issue 5