Thursday, July 07, 2011

Follow-up, and blogger drop-off

Regarding the story mentioned here, Nature has published both a provocative and interesting article by Eugenie Reich about the larger issues raised, and an editorial. Sorry that these are behind a pay-wall. To summarize in a few sentences: Eugenie Reich points out that the misconduct investigation relevant to this discussion highlights important problems with the US Department of Energy's handling of such cases. To wit: There are issues of independence and chain of authority of the investigators, and lack of proper record keeping, documentation, etc. of investigation reports. The conclusion is that this is a powerful argument for the DOE to establish an Office of Research Integrity, like those in some other agencies. The editorial from Nature chastises the DOE along these lines. Interesting that the Nature editorial makes no mention at all of their own role in not publishing technical comments relevant to this particular matter.

In blogging news, there has been a drop-off in the number of active physical science bloggers. David Bacon's Quantum Pontiff has decohered. The Incoherent Ponderer has gone so far as to apparently delete his entire blog and blogger profile. Other blogs have not been updated in many months. It's likely that this is all part of a natural stabilization of blogging - people run out of things to say, and the novelty of blogging has trailed off. It will be interesting to see where this trend resolves. It'll be a shame to have fewer interesting voices to follow, though. (Clearly we should all switch to Twitter, since 140 characters should be more than sufficient to carry out detailed science discussions or popularizations for the lay audience. Ahem.)


Eugenie Samuel Reich said...

Giving my own view and not speaking on behalf of Nature, I agree that it is worthwhile to discuss the non-publication of Muller and Silcox’s technical comment in Nature. My article clearly mentions this, and also includes a comment from the physical sciences editor of Nature on it, so this information was not swept under the carpet. The reason for the emphasis of the article (and my understanding for the editorial too) being on DOE, is that the apparent failures at DOE are far more shocking (because a funding agency has not only an ethical but also a legal responsibility to conduct oversight of alleged misconduct as well as legal and financial powers to do so that a journal does not have), and because there is strong evidence for what happened in the form of declarations from those involved filed in court.

Don Monroe said...

Actually, they are not behind the paywall. Nature recently made their news content freely available.

Charles Day said...

Here are two new physics/math blogs that you might not have heard about: The Photonist by David Harris and Degrees of Freedom by Davide Castelvecchi. Although both guys are now science writers, they used to be researchers.

Douglas Natelson said...

Hi Eugenie - I should've pointed out that your piece did cover those aspects; mea culpa. Still, over the course of this whole business (as well as other research misconduct issues), I always find it interesting to consider when journals (Science, Nature) choose to moralize via editorials, and when they don't.

Don, thanks! I didn't notice that. Your blog is one I miss, by the way.

Charles, thanks for the links. I'll definitely check them out.

Surveillance cam said...

The conclusion is that this is a powerful argument for the DOE to establish an Office of Research Integrity, like those in some other agencies.