People who aren't who they say they are, product claims that are too good to be true, reports that are biased or misleading — every industry has them. So how do you discern the truth or substantiate the claims? Contrary to reason, it seems the more technical the field the more difficult it is to separate fact from fiction. The power quality industry definitely has its share of questionable activity. In the last few months, I've received several inquiries that questioned the validity of information presented in the marketplace and published in our magazine. I'd like to share a few of these with you now, beginning with the most controversial.
In the November issue of Power Quality, we published an article titled, “Prevent Lightning Strikes with Charge Transfer Systems,” by Donald Zipse, an IEEE Life Fellow. Soon after, I began to get e-mails from IEEE members and others in the academic community who were outraged that we printed such an article. Charge transfer systems don't prevent lightning strikes, they asserted. What's more, the article contained inaccurate technical information and supported a theory that amounted to “junk science.” The next situation involved a reader who called in trying to get the straight skinny on a product. A manufacturer claimed that their TVSS system would not only protect his facilities, but also produce a 20% energy savings. Finally, I received another e-mail asking about a “black box” system that decreases voltage to save on lighting costs.
At this point, I'd like to provide some commentary on these situations. As I mentioned, publishing Zipse's article upset some people. In fact, the title of this editorial was literally taken from the characterizations I received. The judgment and integrity of the magazine was questioned because we provided a forum for the author to present his views and information. Although I understood there was controversy surrounding the subject matter, I ran the article in the hope that it would serve as a catalyst and bring the issue to light. So many times technical debate gets buried within associations or committees while the public is kept in the dark. By bringing issues to the forefront, industry participants can strive for consensus and, ultimately, communicate a clearer message.
As for the two product inquiries, both manufacturers make claims that are questionable or beg for more information. The problem is finding test results that validate the manufacturers' claims or people who can relay their personal experiences with the products.
At Power Quality magazine, we walk a fine line between providing information that is practical and useful, yet not overly biased or promotional toward any one system or technology. That can be difficult when industry participants provide much of the content. Nevertheless, we endeavor to provide balanced coverage and, over time, the opportunity for readers to hear both sides of an issue. Later this spring, we plan on running a feature focusing on traditional lightning protection systems and the current debate.
Our goal is to become a resource that directly addresses inquiries like the ones mentioned above. One of the ways we've tried to meet this need is through the open discussion forum on our Website (www.powerquality.com). Unfortunately, this link has seen limited traffic. Would it be beneficial to feature a Q&A-type department in the magazine to focus on controversial issues and foster industry dialogue? Please provide me with your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few parting thoughts: My desire for the magazine is to heighten understanding and facilitate discussion on the subject matters of greatest importance. To cover current technologies and issues, we rely on you, our readers, to help us present a well-rounded public forum. This means we may publish articles where the viewpoints expressed are not our own and differ from some in the industry. I expect that, on occasion, some readers will consider the subject matter “junk science.” Just remember that one person's junk is another person's treasure.