I read your article just now, it is so perceptive of where things have gone in ‘Embryology’. The problem with us oldies is that we compare approaches, but the new generations can ignore us saying we have rose-tinted glasses about the past. And that may be true, but it is not an argument and your article provides real arguments. One core theme running through the article is that the balance between data collection and experiments that are designed to understand has gone completely wrong over the last few decades.
It is so comforting to find someone else who sees this as clearly as you do. When we began our work, Wigglesworth was my mentor. His style was careful observation, then a question (how? why?), then a series of simple and direct experiments to answer it. I have always tried to follow this approach, and with genetics, specifically genetic mosaics, we have had powerful (although not so simple) methods to do this.
I don’t think our papers have changed fundamentally in this long time, we still try to get at mechanisms by carefully designed experiments and I submit that they meet high standards of technique and rigour. But we can’t publish them in major journals as we used to, indeed we don’t even try. I submit this is because they don’t meet the new criteria. You explain what these criteria are in your article. To put it cynically, I believe that success goes to those who put in so much fashionable data that no reviewer can fault it, they are almost ‘drowned’ into submission. When we showed that a cell could have two opposite polarities, in vivo and in situ, depending on inputs from its different neighbours, I naively thought it would be of great interest as it challenges many of the decades-old perceptions of planar cell polarity. It was published in eLife and the evidence is so clear. But it created not even a ripple in the field. That, more than anything, showed me that developmental biology has moved into a new landscape where slag heaps of fashionable data interfere with sight lines (and thought). Just as you put so nicely in your article, thank you for writing it.