Russell Warne writes for the Martin Center about editors who misuse their power to limit access to unpopular research.

Academic freedom is under assault by people who want to control research and speech. One of their strategies exploits the gatekeeping functions of journal editors to censor unpopular ideas.

The leading open-access journal in the field of intelligence research, the Journal of Intelligence, has a policy listed on its website since 2018 that states, “The journal will not publish articles that may lead to or enhance political controversies and the editors will judge whether that is the case.” In other words, the journal’s editors will reject manuscripts that could be politically controversial—regardless of the quality of the science.

On May 15, 2020, two colleagues of mine received a desk rejection from the journal stating:

“It is an estimate from my part that your article may lead to or enhance political controversies. I believe that the motivation as described in the introduction of your manuscript and the mixed language (performance, skills, cognitive ability, cognitive competency, IQ) used to refer to the findings may lead to interpretations and conclusions which are politically controversial. This is neither an evaluation of the quality of your work (which would require a scientific review process), nor am I saying that your results should not be communicated in some way. However, in my estimation, the manuscript as submitted does not fit with policy of the journal.”

The manuscript reported average cognitive test scores among different ethnic groups in a sample of 83,155 British adults. The authors (Bryan Pesta and John Fuerst) obtained data from six nationally representative samples of native-born British and immigrant examinees to estimate the magnitude of the differences in test performance.

Regardless of what one thinks of this research topic, to summarily reject the manuscript because it might cause controversy is censorious, subjective, and an obstruction to the pursuit of knowledge.