Response to ACS Nano Editorial on Reporting Misconduct

October 23rd, 2013

ChemBark's Jackie Jaws, the Jaded JACS RefereeYesterday, the entire editorial board of ACS Nano published an editorial on how scientific misconduct should be reported and dealt with. The piece took square aim at chemistry blogs, and I’ve decided to publish my thoughts as an open letter to Paul Weiss, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal:

Dear Professor Weiss,

Yesterday, I read your editorial titled “Be Critical but Fair”, within which you and the other editors of ACS Nano outline an official policy that calls on those who discover suspicious data to report their findings directly to the journal (where they can be scrutinized privately) as opposed to blogs and social media (where the findings will be scrutinized in the open). It is with candid disdain that I write this (public) blog post to explain why I believe your policy is misguided, and ultimately, damaging to the institution it seeks to protect.

Before going further, I want to thank you for the job that you and the rest of the board perform as editors. You are the primary stewards of the chemical literature, and the gravity of this responsibility is immeasurable. I imagine there are times when the extra salary you receive as editors does not adequately compensate you for the hassles of the job. I have no taste for this stress, but I am glad there are scientists among us willing to step up to the plate. Thank you for your service.

It is because of the immense responsibility of your job as a steward of the chemical literature that the community has an interest in analyzing your actions and holding you accountable for them. Everyone makes mistakes—from lowly chemistry bloggers to exalted editors-in-chief of ACS journals—but the true tragedy of any mistake is when we fail to learn from it. Recently, the process of peer review at your journal failed in a most spectacular manner. Similar high-profile cases recently occurred at your sister journals (e.g., Nano Letters and Organic Letters), and these cases of suspected misconduct are slowly working their way through the process of editorial review.

One common vein to this recent rash of suspicious papers is that they were brought to light on chemistry blogs. As you may already know, I am the editor of one of these blogs, ChemBark. I read with particular interest the comments you directed at those who discuss misconduct on blogs and Twitter:

In science, we face a similar problem: the numbers of blogs, twitter messages, etc. in which individuals accuse others of academic fraud are steadily rising. Although one might think that this trend is generally beneficial for the purity of science, there are also obvious risks involved. Thus, in this Editorial, we outline some general behavior guidelines that we believe should be followed in such cases. In general, we need to respect our law, in dubio pro reo, which tells us not to condemn anyone before wrongdoing has been proven. It is easy to tweet a message like “X committed fraud and manipulated data”, but how do we know that this is, in fact, true, and that instead, it was perhaps person Y who sent the tweet who just wanted to damage an unwanted competitor? We are convinced that it is important to “clean” the scientific literature from manipulated data, incorrect statements, plagiarism, etc. However, when these issues arise, they need to be investigated with good scientific conduct. In other words, be critical but fair.

The implication of your last statement is that the coverage of scientific misconduct by ChemBark was unfair, and I take great offense to this postulate. I use this word because you have not cited a single shred of specific evidence in support of your statement. When has a chemistry blogger ever raised serious suspicions about the validity of data in a paper only to be later proven incorrect? If a researcher submitted a manuscript to ACS Nano that did not include even one specific piece of data in support of his conclusions, the journal would reject the manuscript immediately. It is a shame that the editors do not hold their own writing to a similar standard.

You said on Twitter that the journal has a policy never to cite blogs or tweets, as if this represents a valid defense of why you couldn’t provide specific facts in support of your ideas. First, your tweet was absolute rubbish. Stuart Cantrill, chief editor of Nature Chemistry, immediately pointed out you wrote a previous editorial that cited the Retraction Watch blog. Second, why on Earth would you have a blanket policy not to cite blogs or tweets? Is ACS Nano so recalcitrant to changes in the publishing industry that it feels ideas voiced online can be ignored or reapportioned in print without credit? I hope not.

The true reason that your editorial did not cite a single instance of a blogger’s leveling false accusations of scientific misconduct in chemistry is that no such instance exists. To imply otherwise is dishonest sophistry that does not befit the editors of a major chemistry journal. In the very rare instances where commenters make weak accusations in the discussion thread of a blog post, the comments are ignored or ridiculed. Despite the fact that the majority of popular chemistry blogs serve as places for civil and thoughtful analysis, your editorial treats blogs as shady underground operations where anonymous bloggers are free to wreak havoc on innocent scientists. Again, I challenge you to find one anonymous chemistry blogger who has broken a story of possible misconduct. I use my real name on ChemBark, and Mitch Garcia blogs under his real name at Chemistry-Blog. Your editorial could have easily cited our work in reporting suspicious papers, but of course, doing so would not have fed into your desired narrative.

Returning to your statement above, you note that “we need to respect our law, in dubio pro reo, which tells us not to condemn anyone before wrongdoing has been proven.” First off, your translation isn’t even correct. A more accurate translation is “when in doubt, favor the accused.” This tenet is why our legal system requires proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and the idea has nothing to do with trying cases in public versus private. The fact that you drew on our legal system—which is famous for holding trials that are televised or open to members of the public—to support your policy is ridiculous.

While bloggers who report cases of possible misconduct are indeed accountable to the law, that law is not “in dubio pro reo”. Rather, bloggers are accountable to defamation law. If any chemistry blogger were to raise baseless accusations of misconduct against a scientist, the blogger would open himself to (i) financial ruin from an adverse finding in a civil claim, and (ii) professional ruin in the court of community opinion. Bloggers need to be careful about what papers they choose to highlight regarding scientific misconduct, but this is no different from how newspapers and magazines need to be careful about how they handle their coverage of crime in everyday life. Do we want newspapers to abstain from reporting major crimes until a trial by jury has concluded? No, that’s crazy. There is a public interest served in covering these stories, and news outlets play a valuable role in gathering, distilling, and reporting this information. As both a chemistry blogger and a human being, I need to make sure that the facts I report regarding possible scientific misconduct are accurate and the opinions I voice are rooted in reason. That’s the bottom line, and I am accountable to the very intelligent readership of the blog and to our legal system (should someone have a problem with my coverage). No blogger can expect to level spurious claims of misconduct and get away with it.

Your editorial continues with a statement that peer review is “the best way to avoid potential academic fraud” and correctly notes that the system sometimes fails. When it does, you implore readers who find evidence of misconduct to report it directly to you so you can conduct an investigation in private. You note:

The difference between this formalized accusation investigation and reports in blogs or on Twitter is that, during the investigation, the authors of the article under dispute have a fair chance to explain, and the decisions are made by known experts in the field. After we have made our decision, all are welcome to comment on it in any blog, even if they have different opinions; this is their privilege. We strongly suggest that such comments be made without the cloak of anonymity, using real names and affiliations, so that direct and open discussion of the work can be understood by others.

I hope you can appreciate the irony of how you begin by extolling the virtues of (anonymous) peer review and conclude by haranguing bloggers and commenters to register their opinions “without the cloak of anonymity.” It takes a lot of gall to make those statements in the same line of thought.

Furthermore, the idea that the public should not be free to point out deficiencies of a (publicly) published paper without first receiving clearance from the editorial board of ACS Nano is preposterous. The notion is antithetical to the freedom of inquiry espoused by the academic community and the freedom of speech held sacred by American society. Unless I am mistaken, the “A” in ACS Nano stands for American. In America, it is not a “privilege” to comment publicly on a subject; it is a right.

Your assertion that commenting on papers is a “privilege” smacks of the elitist, opaque, closed-door, Old-Boys’-Club approach that many lament has become standard operating procedure in too many areas of chemistry. Many young chemists decry that success in our field is not so much about what you do, but whom you know. Blogs are helping to level the playing field by putting users on equal terms and democratizing the flow of information. In order for any self-governing and self-policing body to operate effectively, members of the community must stay informed about important issues they face. There can be nothing more important to chemistry than the integrity of our data; it is the foundation on which our knowledge is built. Private systems of dealing with misconduct do so in a darkness where—even if an investigation takes place on the level—those outside will always have their doubts. The open system afforded by blogs shines a light on problems so all can see, participate, and judge for themselves. While private peer review of papers may make sense to eliminate errors before they’ve been published, once a paper is out in the open, it should be fair game for comment. There is no point in dragging problems back inside only to leave a trail of blood and a multitude of questions behind.

I would like to think that the private system you espouse could also function efficiently, but recent history has proven otherwise. Despite the importance of maintaining the integrity of the scientific record, the chemical community has been routinely kept in the dark about cases of scientific misconduct. Journals, universities, and governments seem to share as little as possible about their investigations. Just look what happened with the Sezen–Sames retractions. The case involved a shocking rampage of deceit and was probably the worst scandal to hit organic chemistry of all-time, but it took a FOIA request from me and C&EN to release the details of the case to the community. How can chemists be expected to learn from and prevent scandals without knowing any of the specific details? It’s ridiculous! Do you pledge to release all of the specific details of your investigations that result in adverse findings against an author?

Journalism—including that provided on chemistry blogs—is one way to address this vacuum of information. The Founding Fathers of the United States protected the freedom of the press in our Bill of Rights because they knew that an informed electorate was essential to the efficient operation of our government and the prevention of tyranny. A (small) part of what I’ve tried to do with ChemBark is to shed light on cases of scientific misconduct in our field such that these cases can be discussed and analyzed by the wider chemical community. It is unfortunate that there exists a need for bloggers to invest some of their time in this effort, but experience has repeatedly shown that chemists cannot rely alone on journals, universities, and governments to keep them informed.

Regardless of how persistent you are in your attempt to intimidate the blog community into keeping silent, bloggers will continue raising these issues. The health of our science is at stake, and the importance of its protection far exceeds the cost of however you and your colleagues decide to punish us for openly analyzing important issues in our field.

In summary, I believe your editorial is unfair and completely misguided. I am dismayed that it represents not only your personal opinion, but the professional opinion of every member of your editorial board (who signed it). You all have perverted an embarrassing, spectacular failure of peer review at your journal into a condemnation of the community that exposed and prevented the proliferation of your error. Chemists should be outraged at your editorial, and I hope they see through this shameless attack on those of us who use blogs and social media to analyze articles rather than the traditional method of grumbling in solitude. In the future, I suggest your effort will be better spent listening to the constructive feedback bloggers and their readers provide rather than attacking them for conducting their analysis in a public forum. Finally, on Twitter yesterday, you mentioned a willingness to engage further in a discussion of the merits of open vs. closed review of problematic published papers. I do not hold grudges and would be happy to participate in whatever forum you deem appropriate. Please keep me informed if you remain interested in hosting such a symposium.

Yours in chemistry,
Paul


180 Responses to “Response to ACS Nano Editorial on Reporting Misconduct”

  1. The B Says:

    The real problem is that high level journals are ruled like the Mafia. When you start publishing at high level there are less problem on publishing. The name in some cases is more important than the results, even if the writers have done huge mistakes (Dorta is only a striking example). Also there are many professors that review their “friends” articles expecting a favor in return from them. This is not what i dreamt when I was young and I wanted to became a chemist. This is intellectual fraud supported by the H-index and some editors. Another interesting article (more oriented to the Ph.D. and students point of view) has been published yesterday on angewandte (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201306690/abstract).

  2. bardi Says:

    paul, that was too long, but I think I already read what you have to say in (140 or less) x several. please add some figures and schemes to your very long articles for the benefit of those of us who don’t like to read on the computer screen. thanks for the crocodile.

  3. F'x Says:

    I would say “unbelievable!”, but unfortunately it is oh-so-believable. Duh.

  4. Paul S. Weiss Says:

    Dear Paul:

    First, please call me Paul, as do all my students, staff, and colleagues.

    I speak only for myself here.

    While you took the ACS Nano Editorial that we wrote personally, it was not targeted at you nor any specific blogger or other person. As we have previously done in many editorials, we have tried to offer advice to the community and to young scientists, in particular. As editor/scientists, we have found that we get to see the scientific world from a different, additional perspective. From this vantage, we have learned a great deal that we did not previously see, nor could we have been expected to intuit. We think that it is in the scientific community’s best interest for us to share this viewpoint. We do not insist that others agree, but I certainly would have liked to have known more of what I know now before I became an editor (in addition to retaining my role as a scientist).

    Most of all, I am surprised that you have not seen the false and repeated false claims posted that we have. It was these cases that were the motivation for our editorial. I believe that you have the investigative talent/network to uncover many such cases. If as Derek Lowe suggests, “these misdeeds are rather transparent, for the most part, and can just end up making the accusers themselves look foolish. They get the same kind of scrutiny as everyone else,” I have not seen it. In many cases, the accusers do not identify themselves, so their scientific credibility remains unknown.

    It is a matter of taste, but for me, I have more respect for the isolated Canadian graduate student who alerts us to possible errors she finds and does not seek to raise her own profile by claiming credit for this “discovery.” It is a tragedy when there are ethical, moral, and supervisory failures in science. I find those who take gleeful note of such failures immature and even shameful. In such cases, the students, mentors, and colleagues of the offending parties are also damaged, through no fault of their own. I do not see a winner, do you?

    I do understand and appreciate the argument that it is a service to point out and to document fraud. That is the topic we put before our editors and discussed, and our Editorial captured the consensus we reached. NB- one of the great pleasures of the way we operate ACS Nano is that we set aside time for such discussions with an amazing group of colleagues from around the world. We are happy to have this discussion opened up to our broader community and will set up a space and time at the spring ACS National Meeting in Dallas (stay tuned). I would like to share how scientists I admire have faced and acted on the issue of believing that they have found fraud and/or errors. There are significant examples of such accusations being right and wrong, and equally significant lessons to be learned from both.

    A few notes of clarification here. I could find no mention of “punish” in any form of the word ever published in ACS Nano; I believe that we must attribute that thought to you. Likewise, I believe that we also differ on our definition of “spectacular.” I did clarify my comment yesterday to indicate that we do not cite blog >posts<; I am sorry you missed this tweet in all the traffic. I also enjoyed the Chemistry World article; I had not seen it before our Editorial appeared.

    I hope you will be interested in reading and possibly even find inspiration in this and other issues of ACS Nano outside of the Editorial and Supplementary Information. I hope you see that we have worked hard to look forward at the challenges and opportunities ahead for the nanoscale world and beyond; we have asked our authors to do the same. I also hope that you have many spectacular (my definition) scientific discoveries ahead in your new laboratory and wish you great success with your own research group.

    Warm regards,
    Paul

  5. Andre Says:

    Well said.

    Also, regarding the idea that “the authors of the article under dispute have a fair chance to explain”, is there a blog making accusations of misconduct that doesn’t provide an open forum for response by aggrieved parties? (i.e. Don’t these blogs have open comments and authors willing to engage with the subjects of these posts?)

    Of course, most people involved in these posts prefer not to become part of an open conversation of their actions – as is their right of course – possibly due to legal reasons. But blogs, and the internet in general, is a most open forum for this kind of discussion.

    However, it is apparent (from this editorial and plenty of other examples) that the main reason that one shouldn’t discuss these claims openly is that the journals will work with the aggrieved party to minimize the reputation damage of these decisions. Again, this could be a justified position for the journals for legal reasons that I am not privy to.

    Yet the public are entitled to know what happens in these cases (thanks Paul and C&EN for your work in the Sezen-Sames investigation) so we need chemistry-specific journalism in both the classic (C&EN) and modern (Chembark) sense to fill this need. Hopefully the work done on this blog and others will challenge the publishing industry to be more proactive in finding these misconduct issues before publication.

  6. Renaud Says:

    Citing Paul S. Weiss :
    It is a matter of taste, but for me, I have more respect for the isolated Canadian graduate student who alerts us to possible errors she finds and does not seek to raise her own profile by claiming credit for this “discovery.”

    I wonder what credit would be given to an isolated graduate students alerting the editorial board of any journals about possible errors/fraud in a publication from a high-profile research group without the back-up of the community. Maybe such case already happened that i am not aware of.

  7. Timothy J. Kucharski Says:

    Paul (Bracher): I applaud your response and what you stand for. I, too, was confused by the ACS Nano editorial, which left a bad taste in my mouth. I agree completely with your points in your response. It’s puzzling to me that both the editorial and Paul Weiss’ comment above seem to be speaking from a world in which the establishment always knows and acts best, a feeling that is reinforced by unfair and backhanded insults (e.g., the statement “I find those who take gleeful note of such failures immature and even shameful” with the implied target of either all bloggers or you in particular; the insinuation that punishment does not include intimidation and need explicitly include the word “punish”).

    Why is it so seemingly difficult to understand that once a journal article is published, commentary (of any type) on it in a public forum is expected? If the argument against believing (and acting upon if necessary) comment provided on an article is the “cloak of anonymity,” why don’t the journals make it a requirement to provide verifiable email addresses or similar credentials when commenting? Surely this is not hard to do.

  8. Shawn B Says:

    With the exception of a possibly larger audience and a permanent, traceable record (a good thing), I fail to see how commenting on science on twitter and blogs is any different than what’s gone on in the halls of higher learning and scientific meetings for decades. The community certainly has discussed and condemned scientific misconduct and sloppy work since the inception of published science. It’s only the forum that has changed. Anonymity is an issue, though I suspect others, like myself, downgrade the value of completely unattributable statements and accusations. Those who chose to write under a pseudonym, but publicly, still must be and are accountable for what they say. I believe as I stated yesterday that this article is misdirection aimed at providing solutions for nonexistent problems. Create a blogging strawman, then attempt to devalue the entirety of open, online forums.

  9. bearing Says:

    I think the part of the ACS Nano editorial that struck me as the most telling was this:

    “After we have made our decision, all are welcome to comment on it in any blog, even if they have different opinions; this is their privilege.”

    The editorialist seems to have forgotten that commentary of -any- kind on -any- published idea is not a “privilege” extended to them at a convenient time by the publishers.

    Nice of him to extend permission, though, “even” to those who think differently from him.

    If this is the way the editors of ACS Nano think about the exchange of ideas, they aren’t fit to be running a journal.

  10. Anonymousy Says:

    I don’t know why, but the image of “grumbling in solitude” cracked me up. I envision many chemists do this.

  11. Bobonymous Says:

    It didn’t take long until the editorial itself started to receive comments (presumably before the editors approved commenting on the editorial…)

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/A789AD764C018CABC1089201C9CE94

  12. Tom Says:

    In reply to Paul Weiss:
    Who exactly are “those who take gleeful note of such failures” ? None of us like it when someone cheats, it affects the whole community in a negative way. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t point it out. Paul Weiss is out of touch with reality.

  13. John Spevacek Says:

    Paul S,

    Could you start giving specific examples of “the false and repeated false claims posted that we have”? I haven’t seen them either.

  14. Chemjobber Says:

    I agree with John Spevacek. Professor Weiss’ accusation is the crux of the disagreement between the online community and ACS Nano here.

  15. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    I too would like to see the false claims cited by Prof. Weiss. However even if there are such claims it does not detract from the value of pointing out errors in non-traditional forums like blogs. Sure, there will always be those who cry wolf and those who just turn out to be wrong but that cannot squelch open criticism and dialogue. Making mistakes is a normal part of research and criticism; should we not point out what we think are errors just because there is a chance that some of us might be wrong? The beauty of the online science world is that those who intentionally mislead will be quickly outed and cast on the ash heap of internet history. The whole point of science is to get as many opinions out there as possible; we can always pick and choose the right ones.

  16. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Paul (Weiss): Thanks very much for starting the conversation and staying engaged in it. That is fantastic, and not something you always see from journal editors (who, in their defense, I’m sure have full plates as well). The best way to improve the system is to analyze it and have a proper exchange of ideas rather than to have all of the sides talking past each other. It’s great that the board of ACS Nano meets regularly to have these conversations, and I think you’ll find many people online—from all walks of chemical life—are eager to contribute ideas as well.

    And sorry to (temporarily) walk out, but I have lecture slides to finish for 1 pm and an exam to finish, photocopy, and administer for 6:30 pm, so I am going to unplug for now. I’ll be back to respond thoughtfully to all of the points raised in this thread tonight.

  17. CW Says:

    re: the false claims, there’s a certain irony in a scientific journal making such statements but without any citations!

  18. anon Says:

    1) Journal editors are named and (I think) expect some credit for their work, yet their work isn’t denigrated because it may be partly motivated by status-seeking. Why should that of bloggers and other people be treated differently? As Paul noted, you also treat anonymous reviewers as being worthy of anonymity while others who raise flaws in published work to scrutiny are not. Other than that anonymous reviewers help you make money and anonymous commenters do not, why?

    2) Notifying a journal is a good start to fixing or correcting or clarifying something that may be wrong, but it doesn’t help other people who are wasting their time doing something that may not work because the work it’s based on is flawed. Journals have not necessarily been quick to correct their problematic articles, particularly when those problems reflect poorly on the process by which they were published; the La Clair retraction comes to mind.

  19. nanonymous Says:

    Paul S. Weiss’ vision of the “isolated Canadian graduate student” who doesn’t “seek to raise” her profile makes no sense.

    Institutions employ people whose sole job it is to raise profiles of their members and seek publicity. Would you advise the “isolated Canadian graduate student” not to do the same so that they can maximize the return on their research efforts?

  20. Alex G Says:

    We Canadians don’t like to cause too much trouble.

  21. Chao Says:

    Well, at least the editor (Paul Weiss) saw this complaint and replied. We all wish the science will be more scientific instead of being filled of politics, which unlikely will be true in the near future.
    Politics is everywhere.

  22. Older and Wiser Chem Prof Says:

    Prof. Weiss’ editorial reminded me of one of Nixon’s speeches, which were never about encouraging and broadening a conversation, but were all about reminding everyone where the power and authority resided. Maybe the “isolated Canadian graduate student” deserves a “respectable Republican cloth coat” and Paul’s inspired image of the ACS Crock could be softened by naming it “Checkers”.

  23. Paul Bracher Says:

    @OWCP: You’ll be interested to know that the croc already has a name: Jackie Jaws, the Jaded JACS referee. More here.

  24. WMG Says:

    Paul (B.) — Kudos to standing up and saying what you believe. I, and I know my colleagues, fully agree with you that the system is in serious need of fixing. The number of brilliant people I have seen flee academia because of this sort of institutional power and unfairness is astounding. Hats off to you for trying to fix the system from within, though please do be careful out there. You never know what what creatures lurk in the night.

    P.S. I suggest that any discussion with Prof. Weiss include these articles since the solution to the problem of reproducibility is most likely in the hands of the funding agencies and the journals. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong
    http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21588057-scientists-think-science-self-correcting-alarming-degree-it-not-trouble

  25. TIMMY Says:

    id like to extend a warm welcome to the internet to the fine folks at ACS Nano. I recommend you get used to it, its not going anywhere.

  26. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @ Paul Bracher. I took the liberty to check out your website at Saint Louis University. I am not sure what the requirements for tenure are in your department, but I can assure you that if you keep up the meager publication output you have had so far (despite working in excellent labs at outstanding universities) you would find it difficult to obtain tenure at a serious and reputable University (though you would likely have a good shot at a community college).
    I have also cross referenced the publication output and credentials of several other “bloggers”, like yourself. What you all have in common, besides the self-proclaimed notion that you are doing the community a huge favor by uncovering so many frauds left right and centre is… a modest publication output and an overall “low” scientific profile. By low I don`t mean that you keep a low profile out of modesty, mind you.
    Bottom line. How about you people try to forge your careers through your own discoveries and original scientific inquiries, rather than try to get ahead by attempting to undermine the work of others? Ah wait, I guess many of you don`t do it because you are not able to. That`s too bad.
    You are wasting a lot of time and resources… I guess it will not really hit you until you are denied tenure. It seems you have started your tenure track position very recently, so maybe you are still in time. Please consider this post as a wake up call, because the day your tenure is denied (through peer review, mind you, not by declared or anonymous bloggers) it will be too late… game over!

  27. iamthealchemist Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters: Do you get double points for being both hypocritical (anonymously attacking Paul’s character, particularly in apost debating points on anonymous commentary) and laying down an ad hominem argument?

  28. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @iamthealchemist: contrary to you and other bloggers, I am not seeking points of any kind here. By the way, I did not quite really “attack Paul`s character”. I just pointed out what is obvious to most. I also note that you yourself have chosen to be anonymous, so criticizing me on that count is hypocritical on your part.

  29. lolbloggers Says:

    bloggersaretimewasters is just saying what the rest of us are thinking about Paul. He’s worked for some of the greatest labs with the most funding ever dumped into chemistry, yet he’s barely produced anything of note, except he blogs about how upset he is at the Nobel Prize in Chemistry every year.

  30. Raphaël Lévy Says:

    What is frightening with bloggersaretimewasters disgusting comment is that the editorial is essentially carrying the same threat thinly disguised as a friendly advice:
    “Researchers make their reputations by publishing excellent data, not by being whistleblowers with mixed records of accuracy. It is easy to criticize the work of others, but it is substantially harder to achieve something by oneself.”

  31. iamthealchemist Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters:
    Spoken with such authority! You must have tens of Nature papers under your belt. But because your comment doesn’t really contribute anything, I suppose your identity doesn’t matter, so, please by all means, continue to harangue people from afar (or near? We really don’t know anything about you, other than your contempt for bloggers.)

    Please allow me to educate you about my two posts here today (because without knowing who you are, I honestly don’t know if you’ve even graduated high school): http://www.google.com/search?q=define+sarcasm

    By the way, I myself am not a blogger. I am only a lowly chemist who enjoys staying abreast of current events in chemistry research.

    I also only comment with my real name when I need not fear character assassination for calling someone out on their trash in a public forum, or when I poke the clearly angry tiger.

    But I guess you’ve won this round. So, I’ll just turn off the internet, read hard copies of journals, and communicate by snail mail. Thus, any response from me you intend to provoke by what might be your next post may take some time, as the editors of the Internet will have to approve it first.

  32. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    Not sure flamewars are going to be helpful here, people.

    The ACS has needed a bit of an overhaul for a while in rearguards to its kinetics to reactions to “things people said on the InterTubes”. APS has already undergone several, and us chemists usually follow the physicists’ lead after we’ve contacted our lawyer buddies.

    I know the issue of internet commenting is a bit more complex in chemistry- and medicine, for that matter- than in physics (esp. theory stuff). (Honestly, if a physicist does something wrong, there’s usually a fairly swift reaction if there’s interest within the community. Their sub-fields get very narrow though; and I would guess involve less direct applications and patents.)

    PS
    Do feel free to look up my publication record.

  33. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    *regards

    Lord, I need an Editor. Although I would beg that typos be forgiven for internet comments…..

  34. Matt Says:

    Don’t be a snitch!
    See here

  35. Groan Says:

    Anyone care to place a bet that bloggersaretimewasters is on the acs nano editorial board? I’ll put the odds at 3:2.

  36. Paul Bracher Says:

    Anyone is welcome to criticize me on this site, and the comments from @bloggersaretimewasters and @lolbloggers align with Paul Weiss’s belief (expressed in his editorial) that “Researchers make their reputations by publishing excellent data, not by being whistleblowers with mixed records of accuracy. It is easy to criticize the work of others, but it is substantially harder to achieve something by oneself.”

    I find this idea odd, but I guess Weiss is not alone. Isn’t it weird to imply that scientists are either (i) not allowed to criticize anything, or (ii) only allowed to criticize when they have reached some level of achievement? Again, it feeds into the idea that chemistry is governed as an oligarchy. This idea reminds me of people who think that a candidate is not qualified to be President (and commander-in-chief) unless (s)he is a veteran of the military.

    I find comments like those from @bloggersaretimewasters and @lolbloggers to be of great value. They demonstrate that I don’t censor critical comments on this blog and that no person endures more criticism—especially from anonymous sources—than me. That’s the way it’s been since 2006, and I expect that will never change.

  37. Bryan Says:

    Interestingly, PubMed, the main hub organizing the scientific literature in the biomedical fields, recently launched PubMed Commons, a pilot program aimed at making comments on published articles more visible and easily searched. It seems that the scientific community is moving more in the direction promoted by ChemBark rather than the direction promoted by the editors of ACS Nano.

  38. Alex Goldberg Says:

    To the haters: between Paul’s excellent publication record and his penchant for teaching, I think he is pretty well suited for academia. But your contribution here is nevertheless appreciated for what it’s worth.

  39. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Paul (Weiss): Thanks again for the comment. I just wanted to weigh in with some more thoughts.

    (PSW’s comments are italicized, my replies appear in normal type)…

    While you took the ACS Nano Editorial that we wrote personally, it was not targeted at you nor any specific blogger or other person…I am surprised that you have not seen the false and repeated false claims posted that we have. It was these cases that were the motivation for our editorial. I believe that you have the investigative talent/network to uncover many such cases. If as Derek Lowe suggests, “these misdeeds are rather transparent, for the most part, and can just end up making the accusers themselves look foolish. They get the same kind of scrutiny as everyone else,” I have not seen it. In many cases, the accusers do not identify themselves, so their scientific credibility remains unknown.

    I simply don’t know of many chemistry blogs that have run primary reports of possible scientific misconduct, and I think you will find most people believe your editorial was aimed (at least, in part) at me. Also, I’ve never seen a chemistry blogger raise suspicions of data only to be proven incorrect. Occasionally, random anonymous commenters will level vague accusations about a scientist’s integrity, but these comments never have legs. Here’s an example I remember from 2010. Here’s a blog from someone who dislikes a chemist at TSRI. It might be the closest example to what you are looking for, but does he level accusations of data fabrication? I don’t see any after a very quick glance through his site. Also, this blogger is not anonymous.

    So, I can’t speak for Derek, but I haven’t seen those “false and repeated false claims posted that [you] have”. I’ve given you the best ammo I can find. If you send me links to those that you and you colleagues on the board have seen, I will post them.

    I find those who take gleeful note of such failures immature and even shameful. In such cases, the students, mentors, and colleagues of the offending parties are also damaged, through no fault of their own. I do not see a winner, do you?

    There are no winners, but surely you can appreciate that scientists will take solace in the fact that some measure of justice has been served when these cases of scientific misconduct are exposed and punished. The justice dispensed by the online community is public shame. I know you refrain from discussing specific cases, but what kind of sanctions have you meted out as EIC of ACS Nano for misconduct? The perception from the community is that your power to punish is limited and unable to compensate for the severity of the crime.

    We are happy to have this discussion opened up to our broader community and will set up a space and time at the spring ACS National Meeting in Dallas (stay tuned). I would like to share how scientists I admire have faced and acted on the issue of believing that they have found fraud and/or errors. There are significant examples of such accusations being right and wrong, and equally significant lessons to be learned from both.

    I’d love to sit in on such a symposium, and I suggest that the talks be written up in a proceedings volume so a wider audience can benefit from them.

    A few notes of clarification here. I could find no mention of “punish” in any form of the word ever published in ACS Nano; I believe that we must attribute that thought to you.

    There is a power disparity between you and me. You are the editor-in-chief of a major ACS journal and a full professor at a top-20 department in our field. I am an untenured assistant professor at a school (just slightly) outside the top-20. When you denigrate bloggers who expose misconduct—of which I am probably the prime example—in an editorial that will be widely read by heavy-hitters in the field, you are doling out a form of punishment (IMO). That is not to say you are not entitled to do this—you are very welcome to do so—but I feel the editorial was unfair because it was not based in fact.

    Also, when you outline an official policy for your journal and the procedures by which you administrate your journal are opaque, I don’t think it is unreasonable for those who skirt the official policy to believe there might be consequences for doing so.

    Likewise, I believe that we also differ on our definition of “spectacular.”

    I think the Pease case was a spectacular failure of peer review. But, yes, what got past the reviewers at Nano Letters was much, much more baffling than what made it into ACS Nano.

    I did clarify my comment yesterday to indicate that we do not cite blog >posts< ; I am sorry you missed this tweet in all the traffic.

    I hope you will reconsider this policy. I think information and ideas should be cited/credited in whatever forum they are published. What is the reason for not doing so?

    I also hope that you have many spectacular (my definition) scientific discoveries ahead in your new laboratory and wish you great success with your own research group.

    Thank you! Judging by the comments from @bloggersaretimewasters and @lolbloggers above, I can use of all the good wishes I can get!

  40. KeepItSimple Says:

    The timing of this editorial coincides pretty close with a posting at ars technica that is critical of a paper published by one of ACS Nano’s Associate Editors and was discussed at PubPeer.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/10/new-wave-of-online-peer-review-and-discussion-tools-frightens-some-scientists/

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/54AECF24E96162E3A563AED08BE0B3

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/3E8208F0654769A44C22D4E78DA2B8

  41. nanonymous Says:

    Yes the Molly Stevens case seems pretty well reasoned on the pubpeer. It sounds more or less e=what a journal club sounds like. Even if it didn’t you can clearly see how the tone is completely acceptable. I’m baffled as to why Molly wouldn’t respond in that form.

  42. Frank Says:

    Dear Paul (Bracher),

    I agree with your critic opinion of the peer-review and pre-screen. In my

    field, after graphene being hot, people began to call graphite graphene. If

    the double and triple layer of stacking graphene sheets still have part of

    the unique property of graphene, 5-layer- or 7-layer- or what people called

    multi-layer-graphene is basically graphite. However, did the editors help

    to make it strick by saying that the paper can be published, but please

    change your graphene to thin-graphite? Or did the peer-review help? No,

    People use the word ‘graphene’ to decorate their papers for the high IF journals, but no one says no. It’s not difficult at all to find ACS Nano papers that with graphene in the title, but talked about (thin or even not) graphite.

    The journal hierarchy was built to rule the quality of research, but the ruler is drifting itself. The ruler is also objective to some extend, but it sometimes tries to pretend to be totally subjective and say ‘leave it to me and i will sort it out’. The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy of a closed system will only increase, so if we leave the ruler alone, its movement will be more disordered. I think you work, revealing suspect research with supporting facts, is inputing your energy to the ruler and reduce its entropy.Besides, when you make it to the public, it encourages more people to input the energy and help to keep the system to be more stabilized. I appreciate your work and thank you for what you have done.

    Regards,
    Frank

  43. Don't_worry_about_the_douches Says:

    Hi Paul (Bracher),

    I pretty much echo Frank’s views. Please don’t let two douche bags @lolblogger and @bloggerswastetheirtime (in my opinion) stop you from doing this awesome job you’ve been doing! Sincere wishes for a “spectacular” (As per both Paul Weiss’s, Paul Bracher’s and every Tom, Dick and Harry’s definition of spectacular) career ahead!

  44. young-post-doc Says:

    (Prof) Paul Bracher,

    I don’t normally ever comment but I enjoy and appreciate your blog immensely. What made me comment was the idiots @lolblogger and @bloggerswastetheirtime. Don’t let the trolls get to you.

    And Prof Paul Weiss; thank you for showing up. I hope the dialogue (or the multilogue) continues. Personally I find your (Weiss) position unconvincing.

    All the best

  45. anonymous Says:

    Of course there will be abuse and misuse of the blogs and twitters, etc. But have there not being abuse and misuse of the privilege of having easier access to the journals that define the fates of academics? People have been surprised be the novelty of the internet for a while already, wikileaks had a far more relevant impact than our narrow-minded careerist diatribes bleached by the “it’s for the good of science” pursuits. Some blogs are good, others have a borderline fetishist approach to the public shaming of a retracted article and all the co-authors involved, be them guilty or not. The internet will continue giving a voice to people who otherwise would not have, and this has rarely been a bad thing in history.

  46. Tantal Says:

    What young-post-doc said. Keep up the good work, Paul (Bracher). Sadly to say, the other Paul (Weiss) hasn’t convinced me either.

  47. The B Says:

    Dear Paul (Bracher) now Nature Chemistry has cited you (http://www.nature.com/nchem/journal/v5/n11/full/nchem.1782.html). Your H-Index is improved.

  48. The B Says:

    obviously not in the offensive sense

  49. Jamie Says:

    I never ever comment on anything but I feel this issue is really important and I’m pretty fascinated by this ‘discussion’. My point is though, aren’t we missing sight of the bigger the point here? Surely everyone does actually want the same thing in the end? Misconduct hurts us all, journals included.

    Like many I’m sure, I only came across the editorial via this very blog and so it is difficult not have my opinion slightly coloured from the off. Whilst I disagree with the gist it of it, after a little thought, I’m somewhat satisfied that at least the entire (!) editorial board of ACS Nano deemed it an issue worthy of addressing and attempted to engage (however misguidedly) with the debate. More of that can never hurt and it’s both revealing and commendable that Prof. Weiss is willing to continue the debate here.

    And really, this instance for me captures the wider issue perfectly. I’m a big fan of blogs like this but why oh why must the tone of the debate always be so, well … shrill? Most of us, I hope, can see the ACS Nano editorial for what it is – the entirely predictable, lumbering response of a big ol’ institution. Let’s not forget that they too will feel the squeeze by posts on prominent blogs highlighting cases where their system of review and editing has failed. And that’s a good thing. As Derek Lowe pointed out a while back, stuff like this should make everyone feel more accountable. Officialdom is too slow and reluctant to change – it has ever been thus – but eventually, like in everything else, it too will be swept up in the tide of public opinion. That’s why blogs like this are important. In this day and age, journals and universities really can’t get away with stonewalling on issues like this anymore. Science is super competitive and none of us wants to compete with cheats.

    Let’s not however gloss over the fact that the editorial does again raise some important questions about the way the internet deals with this stuff. I appreciate that chembark and others are usually very careful about what you post and I’ve only ever seen pretty flagrant examples of misconduct highlighted (which is as it should be). I would say though that the whole Dorta/OM thing left a bit of a sour taste in the end (going through her thesis, really?!) and, particularly as a student myself, I find myself very much agreeing with Fredrick von Kieseritsky’s position of support for Drinkel. I have no problem with breaking the story initially, enjoyed reading it and was as shocked as anyone by Dorta’s comment but as far as I can tell, the misconduct is entirely attributable to him and yet a young scientist has been properly tarred and feathered as a result. Intended or not, deserved or not, no question it happened.

    Therein lies the problem – the internet is an echo chamber and anonymity breeds trolls and emboldens people to share viewpoints from the safety of their keyboards that they wouldn’t dream of doing in real life. None of that is new but first impressions matter and can’t be taken back. There is hardly a shortage of opinion, statement and throwaway comment on the internet. Like it or not, twitter/blogs/whatever are in a position of some influence now. It’s no good getting offended when you get called on it, especially when popular opinion seems very much to be on your side (and I include myself in that). When the tone gets too strident then, for me, it impacts on credibility and I don’t think that’s what anyone wants, nor is it even particularly necessary. If we can criticise the journals then they can certainly have their say on us – more important is who has the stronger argument in the end.

    Anyhow, keep up the excellent work – I look forward to reading it.

  50. Antimony Says:

    Great post PB! I read it all. Keep it coming.
    I would also challenge ACS Nano to publish your comments as a response. Lets see how much they are open to criticism.

  51. Graet Chem Says:

    Paul (Prof./Dr./Mr. just Bracher, whatever… :) ),

    Prof. Paul Weiss and the Editorial Board at ACS Nano encourage people to be critical but fair. They should be holding up this blog as a key example of how to do that.

    I think it is highly naive of the ACS Nano board to believe that they can ever turn back the clock on social media in science (if indeed that is what they believe), I do believe that there are chemists out there who think this is somehow still a possibility. Instead, they should have used the editorial to highlight responsible bloggers such as you who do proper criticism of science on their blogs with the strap line that, if you are going to make an accusation on line – do your homework and present your findings as a scientist. If not, the law has provision for defamation and libel in most juristictions.

    We should be more open as a community and relying on the labarythine and deliberately opaque editorial procedures of journals simply isn’t good enough, at least for me, if we are to ensure that scientists behave ethically in the face of large amounts of pressure from their management to publish as much as possible.

    However, it was clear to me when reading your post that you were very upset by the ACS Nano editorial and felt it was a personal attack on you (I tend to agree that it was, at least in part). This really came through in your writing and not really in a positive way. As a colleague (albeit one that doesn’t have the chutzpa to put his real name on the line) could I offer a bit of constructive advice for dealing with this kind of thing in the future?

    1. Sleep on it (you may have done this, but if not, then things tend to be a bit calmer in the morning).
    2. Run your ideas/feelings/response past a colleague who you know will give you an honest opinion – when your blood is up, what seems like a reasonable comment may come across as insensitive.
    3. Stick to your main point and keep things concise – don’t recast arguments already made.
    4. Leave out the petty point scoring (such as mistranslation of Latin, or he said she said stuff about twitter comments on journal policy) – this is almost ad hom and really just reduces the strength of your main argument.
    5. Don’t put words into people’s mouths, even if you know they have implied them – this just creates easy fodder for your opponent to concentrate of refuting rather than the cut and thrust of your argument.

    I’m sure this is all obvious and I’m trying to teach grandma to suck eggs, but, from a critical point of view, I hope you see how this post fell into these traps and your argument has suffered as a result.

  52. Mars-teen Says:

    Paul:
    you rock! great post
    @bloggersaretimewasters: by the way Sam Stupp published 10 papers the first 10 yrs of his career and Scott Denmark 10 over the first 8. I think both have done pretty well since then… I do not see why Paul will not have a similar career (by the way, I think measutring success by the number of papers is sad)

  53. Older and Wiser Chem Prof Says:

    Maybe it’s time for a broad conversation in the scientific blogging community about how Nano has never lived up to its immense hype. When Smalley et al. published the first work on C60 it was clearly a masterful and unexpected advance in more-or-less conventional chemistry. Then all of this somehow got linked to the more-or-less science fiction of nanotechnology, and an entitled subset of academic chemistry got a free pass to play nanotechnology for 20+ years and counting. At some point soon there needs to be a recitation of the inflated claims for Nano and a critical examination of the degree to which societally useful outcomes are likely and imminent, and whether Nano, as opposed to conventional chemistry and physics, methodologies and communities are uniquely necessary to achieve these outcomes. I knew Smalley. His very remarkable discoveries transformed a very talented chemist into a person entitled to act out his flaws in a very public manner. Truly a case of hubris. A smaller but not insignificant level of hubris seems to be evident on a certain editorial board.

    So, forget I’m a chemist. I’m a citizen and a taxpayer. I need those nanorobots to fix my broken body, and I need them soon. If the nano community can’t deliver something big we citizens and taxpayers need, then nanoscientists are no more useful than the lit-crit crowd, and they can discourse about each others’ intellectual obsessions while my tax dollars go someplace that might do me some good.

  54. Don't Cite Blog Posts Says:

    Paul (Bracher), you said about the policy to not cite blog posts: “What is the reason for not doing so?” One thing that you or others could do is to constructively educate the community on how to actually go about citing blog >postspostpost<, but the content I referred to was no longer a part of it, how should this be handled? The recent deletion of a Scientific American blog post is also a great example of this.

  55. Don't Cite Blog Posts Says:

    (Oops, I’ll try this again, my comment above got cut off.)

    Paul (Bracher), you said about the policy to not cite blog posts: “What is the reason for not doing so?” One thing that you or others could do is to constructively educate the community on how to actually go about citing blog posts (distinct from the blogs themselves) in an archival publication. Maybe there are journals that already do this and have it figured out, and if so it would be instructive to learn about how they ensure that a specific post that is cited remains unmodified and publicly accessible for eternity. But perhaps the fleeting nature of blog posts is at least part of the policy for not citing them. Let me give you an example. Have you ever edited, updated, or corrected a blog post? I note that your original blog post, that this string of comments follows, contains several technical errors (albeit minor ones) that show you are somewhat naive to the way that the very journal “institution” you lambasted actually functions. If you were to correct these errors, even if you indicated at the bottom that the blog post was corrected or modified on a certain date or time, and I were to submit to a journal a paper that cited your blog post, but the content I referred to was no longer a part of it, how should this be handled? The recent deletion of a Scientific American blog post is also a great example of this.

  56. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    bloggersaretimewasters: I gather you think that publishing papers is the greatest calling for anyone who calls himself or herself a scientist? I would strongly recommend traveling back into time and telling Carl Sagan to get back in the lab and stop wasting his time writing all those silly books.

  57. Older and Wiser Chem Prof Says:

    Carl Sagan’s National Academy nominations were blackballed for his work on nuclear winter (which pissed off Edward Teller and his clique). Some people joined in because they didn’t like the books and TV stuff. It is hard to question the fact that Carl Sagan had a greater (and broader) positive impact on the perception of science in the US than Sagan (maybe Feynman was in the same league).

  58. Rhenium Says:

    Older and Wiser Chem Prof Says:
    October 24th, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    I approve, there have been advances, but there will be a long headache when the music at the Nano party stops…

  59. Paul Bracher Says:

    @DCBP: Yes, I do often edit material on these pages to correct typos, formatting errors, and the like, but I don’t think that should stop people from citing any information that they would have if it were in a printed book.

    I think it is more important to credit the source of information and run the risk that the information on the page might change or become inaccessible than to use the information and not give credit for it or to just ignore the information completely.

    You can put a date (and time) you accessed the URL in your citation. Whenever I cite something in formal documents, I save a PDF copy of what’s cited. For papers, that’s just saving the PDF. For books, that means scanning the pertinent chapter. For Web pages, I print a PDF of the page using Acrobat. That way, if I lose a book or a Web site changes, I can always return to these backups.

    If you want to cite a page that is already mature enough to have been archived by something like http://www.archive.org, then you can cite that URL for an added degree of security.

    A nice treatment of the subject of citing blogs can be found here:
    http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue62/davis

    Obviously, the publishing industry and citations are going to have to change their standard operating procedure to keep up with advances in technology. I’m sure that in the future, citations will look different from how they do now.

  60. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Jamie: Thanks for the feedback, and I believe I understand your viewpoint. I just favor a slightly different approach. I’ve outlined here why I think it was reasonable and fair to go through Drinkel’s thesis as part of my research into the Dorta story. I can see how this might have rubbed some people the wrong way, but I would do it again if faced with the same circumstances. If my report makes you think less of me, I will just have to live with it. (As a side note, Dorta should come forward, fess up to what exactly happened, and clear the names of the innocent parties. How long has it been…?)

    And to @Graet Chem and @Jaime again, I appreciate your calls for a more moderate tone. At the same time, I think that strong criticism and sharp words/tone can sometimes be more effective at dismantling (faulty) ideas/opinions and conveying the message to as wide an audience as possible. One must always try to find a balance between too spirited and too dispirited to convey your message effectively.

  61. Allison (@DrStelling) Says:

    PB: “I’m sure that in the future, citations will look different from how they do now.”

    I have had this vision since an undergrad in the 2000s of a living, changeable, amendable digital record of scholarly science- but, all changes are logged (so; versioning software may help).

    The library burning in Alexandria is still emotional for some librarian and humanities scholars I know. Let’s not let that ever happen again!

  62. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    It seems I touched a few raw nerves. Which is what bloggers like to do, isnt it?

    @Raphaël Lévy: disgusting is YOUR blog and your constant personal attacks to other scientists. You are the perfect case study for what I said as you are trying to base your career by undermining the work of others, since you do not have original ideas of your own. In truth, I feel sorry for you.

    @iamthealchemist: glad to hear I won`t be reading you for a while, since you have nothing of consequence to say.

    @Paul: you are the one who chose to engage in a context of power disparity, so your mentioning it is quite lame. Nevertheless, based on several discussions I had with PSW over the last few months, I am pretty confident that his editorial was actually not addressed at you.

    @young-post-doc: despite your reference to me as an idiot, allow me to give you the same advice I give my post-docs. Focus on your work. Work hard and with passion. Publish as much as you can. Don`t let secondary issues (including blogs) distract you. If you prefer to spend time on polemics, well, it probably means you are not suited for science after all.

    @Don`t Cite Blog Posts: I couldn`t agree with you more! Finally someone says something meaningful here.

  63. Don't Cite Blog Posts Says:

    @Paul (Bracher): Thanks for your insights and the links. They are useful. I too look forward to seeing how the publishing industry and citation formats will evolve with technology. But realize as you (and others!) are lashing out quite vocally at the absurd, anti-modern concept of not citing blog posts, you are really talking about a majority of the scientific journal publishing industry, and the fact that there currently is (to my knowledge) no standard, accepted protocol for this. Directing this squarely at ACS Nano and Paul Weiss is considered by many to be as misguided as how you consider some of the aspects of the ACS Nano editorial to have been.

  64. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @ Paul:
    “Isn’t it weird to imply that scientists are either (i) not allowed to criticize anything, or (ii) only allowed to criticize when they have reached some level of achievement? Again, it feeds into the idea that chemistry is governed as an oligarchy. This idea reminds me of people who think that a candidate is not qualified to be President (and commander-in-chief) unless (s)he is a veteran of the military.”

    I think you are missing the point here, so I will try to spell it out for you. There is no oligarchy here, just *peer* review. However, we are not all peers. I do not consider myself peer to a Nobel Laureate for example. Even though I am a senior scientist who has published over 150 papers and won a number of awards, I am not quite at that level (and probably will never be). I would find it hard to criticize the work of a Nobel laureate. Of course, winning the Nobel prize does not mean you are infallible. But it does mean that I am more likely to get it wrong than the Nobel laureate.
    If you think that *any* chemist or scientist is your peer, then why not the layman in the street who has not even completed a high school degree? Their opinion should count too, shouldn`t it??!
    Well, their opinion can count but not in a scientific discussion because they do not have the *training* for it.
    Sure, we are allowed to criticize, and PSW even said so. He just asked people to be fair and balanced in their criticism (which R. Levy is usually not, just to cite an example. Another similar example is Dave Fernig, his boss. They make a fantastic duo those two).
    And yes, the higher your level of achievement, the more credible your criticism will be. Why? For many reasons, including that you don`t have to prove yourself any more. That you are sufficiently established that nobody would even think that you might be dishing out criticism to advance your career at the expense of others. And so on.
    Some types of criticism (like the fraud uncovered in the now famous Nanoletters and ACS Nano papers) can be pointed out by almost anyone. However, it was still wrong to highlight them in blogs, *before* the investigations were completed. Why? Because you just know the obvious, that *something* is amiss. But you don`t know who perpetrated it and by highlighting the whole issue before the investigation is over you might be discrediting someone who is not responsible (at least not intentionally) for what happened. And this would be unfair to them.
    What I particularly dislike about bloggers is this air of self-righteousness and moral superiority that apparently gives them the right to pass judgement left, right and centre. Get over yourselves, seriously.

  65. KeepItSimple Says:

    The ACS already has a format to cite blog posts:
    http://chemistry.library.wisc.edu/writing/acs-style-guidelines.html#internet

  66. Dave Fernig Says:

    @PaulWeiss, I find your position rather peculiar. Let us take “Researchers make their reputations by publishing excellent data, not by being whistleblowers ” and the text before and after this quote, for instance. I see no whistleblowing, only post publication questions. A paper is the start, not the end. If data look unusual, then we can and do write to editors. however, the result is most unsatisfactory and completely different to how we treat our students. In the past, not much happened. More recently (last 5 years or so) sometimes something happens in the form of a correction. In my own field of biochemisry, absolutely clear misconduct (image manipulation), akin the the infamous chopstick nanorods is either not addressed by journal editors or on occasion leads to a correction, NOT a retraction. The latter are incredibly rare. Why do corrections happen? largely because the problems have been aired in public and community awareness is high. Result, “something must be done”.

    I think the sorry tale of arsenate DNA published in Science and the incredibly hard work put in by Rosie Redfield to get the science right, which included heavy use of social media is a lesson well worth considering. I blogged about this a while back and the post has some useful links.

    http://ferniglab.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/its-science-jim-but-not-as-we-know-it/

    At the very least, read and think hard.

    As for productivity, blogging helps me release the writing block I get from the admin overload that comes with running a department. I think a good rule of any profession that involves writing, such as science, is that you cannot write too often. Amongst the science bloggers are some of the most creative and innovative scientists – on this front you could do worse than by reading posts celebrating 10 years of PLOS.

  67. Renee Says:

    It is most interesting that the distinguished professor Dr. bloggersaretimewasters has posted four comments on this blog. What a waste of his time.

    I don’t buy his argument that only distinguished professors at the top of the academic totem pole have the ability to comment on other professors’ work. How elitist, and I dare say, how unscientific. Science is about the collection of data, and the ensuing discussion and interpretation of said data once made public. It is not about stoking the egos of professors who have made it to the top of the academic heap, who then turn around and look down on other scientists.

    I am in complete agreement with ‘Older and Wiser Chem Prof’. Nano This and That hasn’t lived up to its hype, and it’s about time the taxpayer-funded plug was pulled. I am speaking as a colloid and surface chemist who finds most of the nano ‘science’ laughable.

  68. Nick Says:

    Paul, brave, and as always, very well said. I have always associated integrity with your blog, just like I do with certain journals. There are reputable blogs like there are reputable ‘traditional’ outlets of information. Thanks for all you do!

  69. Rhenium Says:

    Just thought I should point out that (if I recall correctly) IP addresses are logged here. People might not be as anonymous as they believe, particularly those prolifically posting about how blogs are a wast of time.

  70. anonymous Says:

    Speaking of “retraction watching fetishism”, one exemplary voyeur in that turf has presented us his infallible self-righteousness in this thread. Lucky us.

    And thank you wise chemist for pointing out the obvious: nano is not a necessary sub-field. But isn’t it a term being used by “classical fields” to promote something new? I see chemists, biologists, engineers exploring that “field”, not so many “dedicated nanoscientists”. I am not sure the music will stop in that party anytime soon, but if it does, the engineers and chemists etc, involved in it will simply return to their normal activities, I can’t see any deeper scars than that.

  71. anonymous Says:

    @Rhenium
    I post anonymously because I am a small fish who agrees partially with both sides, which I will hold as a sign of sanity. I agree with a lot of what both Pauls have said, and there is equilibrium somewhere in between, something healthy for the community. Others, the extremists, have been making it impossible to agree with them. There is space to debate articles on the internet, but some people have been doing a horrible (unfair) job at it, like some journals have done horrible peer-reviewing. Hence, both have good points, and it’s not an easy issue to address.

    I believe the grad student or post doc voicing opinions should be entitled to the veil of anonymity: they might be under pressures others simply cannot understand. Furthermore, the content of a post can tell us if someone is balanced or not, regardless of anonymity. But if a tenured professor is doing it, I think it’s on her/his own character to live with that: were I a professor, I’d categorically post with my own identity and state my opinions openly, like Paul Weiss did: no problem with that. But if a professor chooses to engage anonymously, it should be respected, despite of the possibility of IP tracking. Keep in mind it’s easy to generate random IPs, so it’s not so trivial to track a person who has bad intentions, uses anonymity to slander, etc.

    But it’s the internet, a lot is possible here.

  72. The B Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters

    Oh my God how much I hate people like you.

    “There is no oligarchy here, just *peer* review.”

    Yes, you are right, there is no oligarchy but only Mafia (it’s an Italian word for organized crime). And Paul Weiss demonstrated it yesterday with his absurd editorial and post. Probably ACS Nano editors have a guilty conscience . Because the real problem is that university are paying lots of money for journal subscription. And now it is well know that some very important peer review journals are publiscing articles without investigation about the data origin, they also do not look the images. It is shocking discover that a paper in a very important journal was photoshopped with a very poor technique and no one in the “peer review” process noted that. This is the problem. Then Paul can write everything in his blog because it is a private one, if you don’t agree with him don’t use your 150 articles and your prizes to criticise his ideas. Simply learn, for the first time in your long career, to shut up and understand that there are thousand of Ph.D. student and (scientists) around the world that are sacrificing the best years of their life doing their jobs for a very low salary (compared with the industry world) and they need to trust what is published in literature (this is the meaning of peer review). ACS need to take back its credibility after this catastrofic year. And journal like ACS Nano need to congratulate with people like Paul B. not criticize him.

    “I would find it hard to criticize the work of a Nobel laureate.”

    Probably because you are a servant and not a scientist. You don’t love the adventure of discovery but only the medieval servility that ruins academia every day.

  73. eugene Says:

    “I would find it hard to criticize the work of a Nobel laureate.”

    Really? I find it pretty easy, depending on the particular work of course. For example, you’re sitting at your computer in 2008 and reading the latest Jackass from Grubbs, when you spit out your coffee and say “How the $&@* did this get into Jackass!!? There is not even anything new here! I wish my boss was a Nobel laureate or worked at a top ten school, and then maybe I would have had three times as many Jackasses.” Just as an example of course.

    “Some types of criticism (like the fraud uncovered in the now famous Nanoletters and ACS Nano papers) can be pointed out by almost anyone. However, it was still wrong to highlight them in blogs, *before* the investigations were completed.”

    Heavily disagree. I’m not about to read SI for some random ACS Nano paper. But everytime I look at those photoshop pictures, I giggle. It brings joy to my soul and a smile to my lips. Especially those precious ones with one of the photoshopped rods covering up the corner of another one. I was seriously thinking of printing it out and putting it up above my desk. Humor is a rare commodity in published chemical literature, and I would have never been exposed to that great big joke if it wasn’t for blogs. Also, the big Sames joke, though it was at my expense since we discussed Sezen’s papers at group meetings and the boss was pointing out to me at how good a student she was and we can be just as good if only we worked harder. I laughed pretty hard at that one in the end.

  74. Jamie Says:

    @Paul: I should clarify – I wouldn’t say I think less of you or this blog because of the Dorta story, just that I disagreed with some aspects of that particular debate. I only mention it because to me, it’s the best example I can think of of the point I was trying to make. The internet is a screaming hysterical mess sometimes (especially ‘below the line’) and real people can get caught up in that who don’t have the luxury of a pseudonym (which I get that you, writing as yourself, probably understand as well as anybody).

    I appreciate that you seem to try to make your coverage as fair as possible and that you always give people the opportunity to reply. To be clear, I certainly wouldn’t want you to not report things like this that come across your desk. I only regret is that it’s soooo easy to lower the tone online that it somehow makes the often very credible efforts of blogs like this seem less so. That’s why it’s easy for people to brush it off and perhaps why the old-school arrogance of some (see some of the above for instance?) persists.

    This is a difficult question and, for my money, there is an argument to be had both ways. Journals and universities have had their chance to address a problem that is only going to increase in coming years and failed but it doesn’t mean they don’t raise a few salient points from time to time. I feel like blogs like this are helping to change things but it doesn’t mean they don’t have problems of their own too. That said, if chembark and others can in any way deter scientific fraud (where journals clearly struggle) then that is more than good enough for me, whatever their shortcomings.

  75. Bob Sacamano Says:

    We’ve seen new verbs emerge from these internet back alleys and portals, for example:

    Cantrilling: a side-by-side comparison of high-lighter inscribed text from two different articles, done with the intention of exposing plagiarism.

    I’d like to propose an additional entry:

    Pauling: speaking elements of truth to the aging cadre of thought leaders within the chemical enterprise.

  76. Anonymous Says:

    @bob

    maybe brachering? you could say someone got brach’d (brocked).

  77. The Iron Chemist Says:

    I would strongly disagree with bloggersaretimewasters’s last statement, which suggests to me that he feels that the reputation of the critic is more important than the merit of his or her criticism. If the criticism is valid and supported by accurate facts, then it shouldn’t matter who puts it forward, whether it be a college graduate or a Nobel Prize winner.

    I would also disagree with his earlier blanket statements about the motivations of whistleblowers. I myself have reported instances of misconduct to journals, both as a referee and post-review. Why? Because I value scholarship and the truth. Because I want to see science done and reported properly. Because I don’t want to see others’ achievements cheapened by appearing alongside markedly inferior work.

    That said, I can see some merit in Weiss’s statement. Once the tar and feathers get applied, it’s difficult to wash it all off. Many folks in this field, from prize winners down to graduate and undergraduate students, have had their reputations marred by innuendo. If the ACS Nano editorial were more clearly stated as a call for more responsible discourse as opposed for a call for silence, I’d embrace it enthusiastically.

  78. Bob Sacamano Says:

    @Anon8:32:

    My suggestion attempts to line us up with a bond to a past giant, if only to recognize and partially offset the power dynamic in situations like this.

  79. nanonymous Says:

    Paul,
    I think it might make sense to look at the Molly Steven’s papers that are being scrutinized on pubpeer.

    As far as I can tell the criticisms have been very reasonable, and no response yet from Molly.

  80. Keeping It Civilized Says:

    What @nanoymous is doing above is bullying, and it is one reason why the anonymous criticisms of a paper do not get nearly as much weight or support as those that come from a named person. The ganging up on authors that has taken place on PubPeer and other sites does the community no good. Conversely, letting flawed or fraudulent work sit untouched also harms the progress of science. There has to be a civilized way forward, and I think when poor scientific work is criticized without the comments becoming abusive, the process can work. This can come as comments to the editor who handled the paper, or on forums like this one. And I fully accept it can take a lot of pushing, because some authors (especially those who have committed fraud) will push back as hard as they can to avoid admitting their flaws or that the work is flawed. This isn’t a universal problem – Retraction Watch has highlighted many instances where authors spotted errors in their own work and without any prompting did the right thing.
    I can understand why Weiss put out the editorial that he did, even if I don’t agree with much of it. In the “old” days, scientific debates took place within the scientific community. They could be heated and argumentative but they were restricted to those who knew something about the topic. Today, that is no longer the case and it is far too easy for any accusation, whether valid or not, to become a big news story that thrusts the researchers into a very uncomfortable position.
    Do I have a simple solution for how to fix the current problems? A few ideas, but there aren’t easy fixes. Journals need to respond to valid criticisms in a timely way. Do critics need to separate their scientific concerns from there personal biases? Absolutely, and particularly if they want to stay anonymous. One huge problem I have with PubPeer is that the comments aren’t even attached to pseudonames. For all I know, it could just be the postings of one or two people, pretending to be many bashing away at the community at large. This may not be the case – I just have no way of knowing.
    If the goal is to advance science, and I believe it is, that should be the criteria used when deciding how best to deal with a questionable paper. The journal that published it should be the first port of call, but I don’t think it is the only way to get the message out. However it is done, though, please keep it civilized.

  81. apeer Says:

    @Keeping It Civilized

    “The ganging up on authors that has taken place on PubPeer and other sites does the community no good.”

    You think it is unethical for people to share an opinion??? Ever wondered why several people do hold the same opinion?

    “The journal that published it should be the first port of call”

    In the case of Stevens, you will learn from the threads on PubPeer that the journal was approached and rejected the complaint. What would be your suggestion for making further progress if the editorial avenue is exhausted?

    “However it is done, though, please keep it civilized.”

    Actually, why don’t you point out just one uncivilized post on the Stevens threads on PubPeer (out of about 50 comments). The least civilized that I can see is probably one of the authors accusing the commenters of naivety.

    “One huge problem I have with PubPeer is that the comments aren’t even attached to pseudonames.”

    Yes, it is disorienting and hard work, isn’t it? You have to read the comments, understand them and make up your own mind, not just read the title and the last author. Are you a scientist or not? What matters is the arguments, not whether they were made by one or seven people. Or maybe you did engage your brain, read the threads and come up with the obvious explanations for single molecules having such gigantic effects. Please do share those explanations – there are several commenters on PubPeer who still are completely in the dark.

  82. Umbisam Says:

    Since we’re on the subject of whether or not it’s ok to call out a fraud on a blog, what about criticising media write-ups. http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/23788311/scientist-tiny-robots-can-find-and-kill-diseases#axzz2ill1dGRu

  83. Older and Wiser Chem Prof Says:

    Kudos to Umbisam. My earlier dig at disease-curing nanorobots was grounded in claims I read 25 years ago, and I might have assumed that no one would dare go there today. Then we read today that an NIH funded nanotechnology scientist at Alabama State is making a very extreme set of these claims and predicting the wholesale end of illness in a few years. If an NIH funded oncologist told reporters that his or her work would cure most cancers in the next five years there would be severe professional consequences. I have family members who have recently had reconstructive surgery, cancer, hypertension, etc. I cringe at the thought of one of them reading this report.

  84. Dave Fernig Says:

    I am quite amazed at @bloggersaretimewasters and @Keeping It Civilized. I don’t know where they live, but their comments are straight out of the dictatorship book. It would also be appropriate to take heed of the words of @Older and Wiser Chem Prof.
    Put bluntly, there is a social responsibility. Not just taxpayers money or raising false hopes in those who have lost all hope. There is also a responsibility not to do something that might kill. This may be less likely in chemistry, but is certainly a problem in medical sciences. Many have died BECAUSE there was no one willing to say the emperor had no clothes. Before anyone answer this comment they should first read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma, or if they are too busy hit some blogs that deal with fraudulent clinical trials and tally the death toll.
    Though @bloggersaretimewasters and @Keeping It Civilized have both commented in a way that is clearly bullying, ironically this is a charge they levy against others, including the very civilised comments on PubPeer. You are both arrogant and clearly incapable of looking in the mirror and considering the consequences of not stating the obvious about work that appears on reading to have a flaw. The consequences are in the paragraph above – read again please and think hard. Blogs such as this one and others do the scientific community and society at large a service.

    I would add that it is easy to miss problems with data. The Melendez case provides an exemplar. When Melendez was appointed to a position at Liverpool, a cell biologist colleague of mine, who is an extremely critical character, read a good number of his papers, with a view to starting a collaboration. The story of data fabrication in Melendez’ papers then appeared on blogs. When the news became rather loud, my colleague went back to the PDFs to double check. Yes, the data had been fabricated and yes he had missed every single instance; some of these papers are now retracted.
    So anyone can miss a problem with data (we fool ourselves easiest, of course) and anyone can spot a problem with the data. So peer review has to be continuous. Publication simply states that 2 to 6 people thought it was OK. When 100s or 1000s of people think the same, we are more certain. So blogs are just part of the conversation and far more open that whispers at the back of a lecture room.

  85. Older and Wiser Chem Prof Says:

    I have given this matter a lot of thought. The editorial board could be viewed by some as infringing upon the first amendment free speech rights of everyone who publishes a science blog or uses Internet social media to comment on publications in nano science.

    My basis for this is reading this afternoon a current and apparently relevant case that you can find very easily. It is Adams vs The Trustees of UNC Wilmington et al. Briefly, the plaintiff, a junior social science faculty member, had a conversion experience and began publishing blogs from a very conservative perspective that were critical of diversity issues and perceived political correctness in academia, including in his immediate environment. He referenced these blog posts in his professional cv, and when he eventually went up for promotion to full professor he was denied based apparently on research productivity concerns. He filed suit in federal court alleging a number of causes of action. All were initially dismissed by the trial court on summary judgement, but the federal appeals court reinstated the cause of action based on violation of his free speech rights in which he claimed to have been retaliated against for his free expression in his blogs. Looks like that one is going to trial.

    Let me connect some dots. Powerful editorial board tells a bunch of US citizens to limit their speech in blogs and social media regarding a branch of science that they have unusual sway over. Someone disregards this and suffers some consequence such as a denied promotion. It goes to federal court.

  86. Umbisam Says:

    @OWCP: Part of what irks me is that I’ve heard a least one chemicals professional adopting little microscopic robot as the definition of nanomaterial. While there are some people focusing on molecules that can perform robotic like motions, the grey goo hasn’t been made yet. And regarding free speech, I don’t think any lines are crossed until someone is unfairly accused of misconduct. Whether or not something is appropriate is up to individuals to decide. I think it was inappropriate when one of the blogs started criticising specific couples who were hired, suggesting that one wasn’t talented enough for the position. A Harvard Prof. had to step in and vouch for the person in question. I think that some bloggers have an Edward Snowdenish sense of self importance. The nano-chopsticks were a slap in the face to anyone who has spent hours, days, weeks doing microscopy only to find nothing reproducible and having the good sense not to publish garbage, even though an extra pub may have increased their chances of getting an academic position/tenure.

  87. anonymous Says:

    I think some of the commenters involved don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with dictatorships or suppression of freedom of speech. A group of meanies with privileged access to a journal and the people defending their way of work is not analogous to dictatorship. The right to freely express oneself online, especially about science, has never been bigger. Enjoy the ride, but don’t pretend you’re the victim of some great injustice: those exist in the very real world far from university corridors.

  88. nanonymous Says:

    Keeping it Civilized,
    Wow have you actually read the thread? It is a perfectly reasonable tone, I wouldn’t be surprised if the editorial wasn’t as much directed to blogs like this one as much as the Molly Steven’s pubpeer thread.

    The is nothing bullying or uncivilized about discussing a paper. Reading the comments, there seem to be some fundamental concerns about the validity of claims being made; I haven’t seen a response that helps me believe that these problems are not serious. It is trivial for the authors to simply post simple reply that addresses the concerns.
    OWCP,
    You might enjoy this:
    http://mittimithai.com/2013/02/little-horns-and-big-ideas/

  89. PubPeer Says:

    @Keeping It Civilized

    We would like to clarify that users can only register 1 account with PubPeer. We go to great lengths to ensure that a user does not have more than one account in their name.

    If you see any discussions that are not civil please let us know so we can moderate or remove them.

  90. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Jamie: Thanks for leaving the the comment. I totally see where you’re coming from, and I wrestle with these sorts of questions of approach.

    And re: PubPeer and the Stevens’ case, it seems to be that the discussion on that site has been pretty clinicl/professional. I have not looked into the paper myself, so I will withhold comment on it. With that said, it seems quite a few people believe that online discussion relating to that work is what motivated the editorial in ACS Nano. If that’s the case, I don’t know why the editors wouldn’t just link to it and quickly state why they find the discussion unfair. It would be instructive.

  91. apeer Says:

    @Paul Bracher

    “I don’t know why the editors wouldn’t just link to it and quickly state why they find the discussion unfair.”

    You mean make a scientific argument rather than pull rank? The political approach seems to have been instinctive and symptomatic.

    So the stakes have risen almost dizzyingly high. Think about it. Stevens, Nature (Nano), their referees and (it is suggested) the editorial board of ACS Nano are happy to defend/condone a bald claim of hassle-free, noise-free single molecule detection with a simple antibody reaction. That’s a very specific and bold claim to make. Surely one of the many great and good defending this work could provide a brief explanation? Yet the silence from defenders of those papers when faced with the questions on PubPeer has so far been absolutely deafening.

    Like the silence before the storm.

  92. Keeping It Civilized Says:

    @Umbisam – great call. That story is all hype and no substance. Doesn’t make for good journalism. Also tends to show up in grant applications and journal submissions – sometimes successfully so, and sometimes to the detriment of the authors. Depends on whether people think critically or not.

    @apeer – we can disagree when cross posting on a single paper, or when someone here asks Paul to look into a thread at PubPeer goes from being a discussing to being a bullying situation. We probably won’t see much in common though, so I’m not going to argue on this point further.

    @Dave Ferning – dictatorship!?!? Sorry but I don’t see how you made that leap. I’m not trying to stifle debate about someone’s research. But when I see attacks on a researcher, I think a line has been crossed. To call me a bully is the height of hypocrisy. And yes, I’m very aware of what it takes to be a critical voice and how sometimes you have to fight against a very large establishment. Just go back to the history of thalidamide in the US and why that country didn’t have a problem with the drug.

    @Unibasm – again, I appreciate what you’ve written. I think there is a huge difference between flawed work and outright fraud. The latter can be harder to detect at times, and rarely does the act of trying to reproduce the work bring any reward.

    @anonymous – well put about dictatorships. That word has been bandied around here but I don’t think anyone is advocating a complete shut down of all means of commenting or criticism. Somehow the idea that there should be rules to the process seems to make some feel threatened.

    @nanonymous – yes I read the thread. I didn’t say I had a problem with the thread as much as the way you felt you needed to call it out on this blog.

    @PubPeer – thank you for the clarification. It doesn’t stop a single person from posting lots of comments without registering, or I suspect by using multiple email addresses to create accounts. But I understand some of the challenges you have in putting the site together and trying to keep things fully anonymous (although I really wish the comments had dates indicated, but that is a minor point)

  93. Keeping It Civilized Says:

    Let me clarify my original bullying comment because I can see how it is has been misinterpreted. I do not have any problems with the ongoing discussion on PubPeer about Molly Stevens work. There a lot of comments posted on her paper, and it will take time and expertise to figure out who is right.

    What I consider bullying is when there is a coordinated or systemic effort to put someone down. For example, when a class of school kids decides uniformly not to talk to the new kid and this is repeated day after day. When a second PubPeer thread was started on the Paul Weiss editorial, and the first comment to emerge is some snarky comment about Molly Stevens and a link to the other PubPeer thread, and this is then followed up here with a comment saying “Maybe you should go look into Molly Stevens work”, I see a pattern of targeting one individual from multiple directions. That is where I see it crossing a line from the original PubPeer thread – which involves discussion of her research, to becoming an attack on her as a researcher.

  94. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @Dave Fernig:
    your reply is quite amusing and very predictable. Your reference to dictatorships is quite appalling – obviously you have no idea what it is like to live in a country where free speech is not allowed. But I digress.

    Before I reply to your other points, let me state that surprisingly, there is one aspect that you and I agree on. Yes, a paper is typically scrutinized by a lot more scientists after publication rather than during peer review. This is why I go through dozens of iterations with my students and post-docs before we submit a manuscript, to make sure we minimize the chances of sending to print something that will not stand the test of time.

    Anyway, evidently my point of view has not come across the way I wanted it, so I will attempt to spell it out more clearly. The issue I take with you and with other bloggers like you does not relate to *what* you do but rather to *how* you do it. Your “holier than thou” attitude, self-righteousness and arrogance arising from presumed moral superiority really grate on me. You and others are promoting a “vigilante” culture in science and I dislike it and even despise it.
    Your posts often sound like you are taking it upon yourself to be the judge, jury and executioner of whoever falls under your purview. I would not condone that attitude in real life if I saw a vigilante trying to do the same, apprehending presumed criminals and dishing justice, substituting himself to the justice system and I also do not like to see the world of science (not just chemistry) going this way.
    Not having the credibility of someone who has nothing to gain, you and others hide behind the notion that you are doing the community a favor. In some cases you even are, but I do not necessarily nor easily subscribe to the view that the ends justify the means. Even when you are right, when there is overwhelming evidence that some type of fraud has been committed, you do not know who committed it and your public condemnation tarnishes the reputation of all the authors involved, whereas there might be only one guilty party. Since you are just reading material and not conducting a proper investigation, your understanding of what is happening is partial, at best.
    There are other instances in which authors are at best guilty of not providing the “correct” interpretation, while their data is perfectly valid and reproducible. I have also seen such authors attacked by bloggers. Well, as long as data are real and reproducible, I accept that it is possible that some authors (including myself and probably most scientists) sometimes do not interpret their meaning correctly and publish an interpretation which later is proven wrong. This is one of the ways in which science advances and I am comfortable with it. I am surprised (understatement of the year) that you and others take issue with it.
    Go through proper channels, through editors and editorial boards as suggested by ACS Nano and you will have all my respect. I might even join you sometimes. I have written comments on the work of others when I felt it was warranted, and my comments were duly evaluated, reviewed and published.
    Why should you go through editors? Because they provide adequate checks and balances. I believe this was the message that the editorial board of ACS Nano was trying to get across. There are appropriate forums for these discussions, i.e. the literature, and inappropriate ones, i.e. blogs where there is hardly any screening of what is said and how it is said. The discussion can easily turn sour, there are episodes of mobbing and bullying and I can understand why authors choose not to reply. An anonymous blogger has zero credibility compared to an anonymous referee appointed by an editor – again, the editor is responsible for choosing suitable referees with the right expertise and stature in the field. An anonymous blogger could be anyone. And just because there might be 40 of them (as in the pub peer case that is being quoted by others here) does not mean they are right (I will not comment further as I have not read the papers by Molly Stevens nor the comments in pub peer, so I am not in a position to say anything of value).

    (@apeer: just because a lot of people share an opinion does not mean they are right. This is science and democracy in the sense that the majority “wins” does not apply here. I am pretty sure you could get a lot of people (untrained ones, most likely) to claim that the laws of thermodynamics are invalid, but this would not make them right).

    Once, when I submitted a comment on a published paper the editor of that journal asked me to tone down my language. In hindsight, he was absolutely right – I was making it personal. I was being critical, but not fair, to quote the ACS Nano editorial. I was so worked up in my outrage that the authors had gotten away with publishing crap that I felt the urge to right that wrong. Again, in hindsight I was wrong and I am glad the editor asked me to rewrite certain sections of my comment, which turned out to be more balanced, valuable and constructive.
    You know, you gain credibility when your comments are fair and conversely, you lose it when they are personal. You and others (allow me to refer again to your friend and colleague Raphael Levy) are turning this exercise into a modern day crusade and I (and others) find it distasteful.
    Or if you prefer, keep going as is, until one day you get sued for libel and-or slander and are condemned to pay damages. I honestly can`t wait, I will be the first one to cheer.

  95. Dave Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters
    “Once, when I submitted a comment on a published paper the editor of that journal asked me to tone down my language.”
    Allow me to play the part of the editor and request the same; the level of vitriol in your contributions here is undermining your position, which has some merit. Needlessly or maliciously trashing solid science serves no useful purpose to the community, and can definitely be a detriment in the short term; however, as you point out yourself, peer review doesn’t stop just because an article is assigned a DOI. The major difference between the “traditional” group meeting or conference mixer trashing of a piece of scholarship and the present internet comment-based version is that the latter is “in print” and thus subject to libel. But really, to us in the ivory tower they’re practically one in the same, aren’t they? (except that maybe Paul and the others may want to have a lawyer on retainer, just in case)
    If papers are published in the open literature, I say they’re fair game. If some trolls hiding behind pseudonyms take some baseless snipes at a paper, who is really going to take notice? If a critical mass of people start to ask questions about some data or interpretation, is that necessarily a bad thing? In that case, the work will either stand or fall based on its merit. If an interpretation of otherwise solid data is found to be incorrect, then future papers can update our understanding, and no reasonable scientist is going to question the integrity of the original authors. If, on the other hand, the data are sloppy or outright fabricated, then the paper has no place within the scientific canon anyway. My personal belief is that too many researchers are writing manuscripts to withstand scrutiny at the review stage (which, if it fails, no one in the broader community will be aware anyway) and then update CVs and move on. If the current state of post-publication review (either on Pubpeer, here, or elsewhere) is a bit too hot, then stay out of the kitchen.
    Plus: some of these points have already been raised, but I’ll just reiterate for effect.
    -Sniping anonymously about your ill-formed opinion of Paul as a scientist really showed your true colours.
    -Your hierarchical notion of how *peer* (your emphasis) review should function is exactly what is wrong with peer review. By your logic, Dan Shechtman should have shut down his diffractometer and walked away from science in the face of criticism by Linus Pauling, a nobel laureate and by your logic more qualified to remark on matters of chemical importance. I think Pauling’s comment that “There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists,” is pretty damn relevant in the current discussion: when they resort to ad hominem attacks, you’ll know that you’ve beaten them. I’m sure you’ll be happy to overlap with Pauling in this regard.

  96. A Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters
    ” I am a senior scientist who has published over 150 papers and won a number of awards”

    Either you’re a senior scientist who writes with the maturity of an angry graduate student, or you’re an angry graduate student who has a misguided sense of self-import. Either way, you’re only embarrassing yourself and it’s probably a wise choice that you’re not using your own name.

  97. Anonymous Coward Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters

    “Some types of criticism (like the fraud uncovered in the now famous Nanoletters and ACS Nano papers) can be pointed out by almost anyone. However, it was still wrong to highlight them in blogs, *before* the investigations were completed. Why? Because you just know the obvious, that *something* is amiss. But you don`t know who perpetrated it and by highlighting the whole issue before the investigation is over you might be discrediting someone who is not responsible (at least not intentionally) for what happened. And this would be unfair to them.
    What I particularly dislike about bloggers is this air of self-righteousness and moral superiority that apparently gives them the right to pass judgement left, right and centre. Get over yourselves, seriously.”

    Although I don’t agree with everything that @bloggersaretimewasters has said if you go back and look at the Dorta article then Chembark did exactly this – by publishing Emma Drinkel’s thesis – a junior member of our community – he discredited her – without any evidence of wrong doing on her part.

  98. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Anonymous Coward:

    That report presented verifiable facts. The fact of the matter is that the elemental analysis data *published* in Drinkel’s thesis are different from those in the paper *published* in Organometallics. Before highlighting these discrepancies, I contacted both Drinkel and Dorta ahead of my report and gave them a chance to respond. They did not reply. After the publication of my story, they could have left comments in the post. Once again, they chose not to.

  99. nanonymous Says:

    Keeping it Civilized,
    What makes you think there is a “coordinated” or “systemic” effort?
    I can tell you that there are at least two unique people thinking about it, since I don’t know who wrote the first comment nor (as far as I can tell) was I terribly influenced by it.

    I had never heard of Molly Stevens until I was reading discussion on pubpeer, as the most interesting tend to be those with a lot of comments. I noticed her name on the list of editors on this incredibly daft acsnano editorial we are all talking about. I sincerely doubt this is an original set of insights to put all of these together and link the two. I have no understanding as to why you don’t like to see people writing about it.

    Perhaps this is all noise though, perhaps you or Molly will explain the simple misunderstanding of the posters, perhaps acsnano will explain what they are thinking about when it comes to “isolated Canadian graduate students”, why anonymity is bad and why they think people should talk about published science on the intertubes….it already smells like there is something not quite right going on though.

  100. nanonymous Says:

    Anonymous Coward,
    Paul didn’t publish Dorta’s thesis, it was published be her institution (or whatever publishing house they contract with). What is the world are you talking about?

    bloggersaretimewasters seems to have a problem with the subjective interpretation of tone. The fact is that people like Paul and pubpeer have effectively discovered a number of irregularities in published chemistry. Bravo to them, they have been very effective.

    I don’t really care about what tone they take in their writing, they have produced results. FWIW I enjoy Paul’s writing.

  101. Anonymous Coward Says:

    @ Paul Bracher

    Paul – you discredited Emma Drinkel. Your report contained no evidence of wrong doing on Drinkel’s part. But the way you published her thesis and you stating that she hadn’t responded to you suggested wrong doing on her part . That’s why handling of this sort of situation by editorial boards is preferable. She is under no obligation to respond to you – you’re not the Chemistry police – although I think you’d like to be.

  102. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Anonymous Coward: Of course she is under no obligation to respond to me, just as I am under no obligation not to point out that she and her coauthors reported different data in two publications. Any discredit these authors brought upon themselves was at their own hands—whether self-inflicted or inflicted upon each other. I had NOTHING to do with what data they collected, reported, signed their names to, or asked to “make up”.

    Dorta was supposedly in the process of supplying the EA certificates to the journal to put the matter to rest. That’s probably something that should have taken all of two weeks if something had to be shipped across the globe (e.g., from Brazil to Australia). That was over two months ago…

  103. apeer Says:

    @ bloggersaretimewasters (and Keep It Civilized)

    Your points are basically ones of “form” or “procedure”. But I think there is a crucial bit of context that you haven’t determined, as highlighted by this quote:

    “I will not comment further [having already commented loads] as I have not read the papers by Molly Stevens nor the comments in pub peer, so I am not in a position to say anything of value”

    In the end, the correctness of the science does make a big difference to deciding what is acceptable behaviour. Those driving the comments about Stevens have taken the time to read the papers (with enough care to make detailed comments) before coming to their firmly held beliefs that “something must be done”. You are trying to argue that they have gone over the top without understanding the claims you are defending. So your position is obviously the much weaker. Having read the papers and discussions in detail, I really don’t believe that it’s a situation that allows for uncertainty or relativism. Without having read the papers, you are assuming it does.

    So here’s a simple challenge: read those two papers and discussions then tell us who you think is right and *why*. You don’t have to know much more than high school reaction kinetics and a bit of long division. Presumably that’s not too challenging for you? Still too much hard work? Well, maybe you should give more credit to the (apparently few) people who have made that effort and not discount their carefully argued opinions without having taken the time to understand them.

    In other words: put up or shut up.

    There is some loose talk about libel and defamation. It’s a very interesting question as to what would happen if a scientist says “I think this is scientifically impossible”. Would that be considered a libel? The implications for the conduct of the experiments and the reputation of the scientists involved would be crystal clear (how would you obtain impossible results?), and the statement is inherently falsifiable, so probably not defendable as “opinion”. On a blog it probably wouldn’t receive the UK law “science” protection of appearing in a peer-reviewed publication.

    That said, the threads on PubPeer are excrutiatingly careful and factual, requiring a certain amount of scientific reading between the lines (but you haven’t read them…). I would be very surprised if they could be attacked for libel even in the libel paradise that is the UK.

  104. Raphael Levy Says:

    I intend to publish on my blog a comment on the article at page 8529. I will not contact the Editors of ACS Nano to ask for their permission. I will be fair but critical.

  105. Don't Cite Blog Posts Says:

    A lot of time has been spent haranguing ACS Nano. I haven’t seen much discussion on here about what other entities recommend. Here is the NIH’s policy. How similar/different is this? Anyone can search for similar policies from other government agencies, academic institutions, etc. It is interesting in light of the backlash on here. Discuss, constructively.

    http://sourcebook.od.nih.gov/ResEthicsCases/NIH%20Misconduct2.pdf

  106. anonymous Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters

    Some people do, to a degree, “science critique”. Others, like the bloggers you’re mentioned mistake that for personal grudges with people they dislike. Some of the blogs end up looking silly.

    But still: they are free to say whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want. Freedom of speech like never seen before. Whether they are fair, it’s for the readers to decide. But their right to express themselves should and will go on.

  107. Declan Ryan Says:

    The editorial calls on scientists to be critical, but fair, however, the editorial board do not elaborate as to what they mean: critical of whom/what, fair to whom/what. The editorial board’s thinking is incomplete and in serious ways flawed. Paul’s response justifiably seeks clarification.

    Science is ultimately the search for truth. Truth is the value prized by scientists and logic is the method used to identify true statements. If, as stated by the editorial board, it is easy to tweet a message like ‘Person X committed fraud…’ it’s just as easy to tweet ‘How?’ back, but I would argue that a response is unnecessary. Logic requires us to throw out such an argument as it is (without evidence) ad hominem. It is the reason why it is the responsibility of the accuser to prove the case; everyone else may ignore it until evidence is provided. If their concern is what might the public think, I would argue that their concern is misplaced.

    The board, however, drew from this flawed argument an opinion that some people have abused social media and, as a result, they condemned all social media/blogs (the implication is that social media does not provide a ‘fair’ chance for authors to explain themselves). While Paul requests that they cite an example and explains that he is not of that ilk, I argue that the board’s reasoning is an example of poor logic (error by composition). If several parts of an engine are lightweight it does not imply the engine as a whole will be light, likewise, if several online participants criticise a scientist unfairly that cannot justify the condemnation of all bloggers.

    Another flaw in the logic of the editorial board is evident in the board’s knowing what is fair. They appeal to authority (their own) to know what is fair treatment or what is a fair chance (‘after we have made our decision, all are welcome to comment on it in any blog…’). In science, as science should be, that which is fair is that which is true. There really isn’t any other way to it and no authority can make it any other way.

    The editorial board state that successful researchers publish excellent data. This is an appeal to majority/popularity: If you publish lots of data, lots of your peers must approve of you, therefore you are a successful scientist. Judging others is hard in any field, but appealing to any quantity of the type implied can be thrown out of a logical argument immediately. That said, if we indulge the board and given the context of false data published in a leading ACS journal, I argue that an acceptable definition of excellent data would be true data (the editorial board provide no definition). As such, successful researchers publish true data and I argue that successful editors should prevent untrue data from being published. Has this happened? Although this board recently accepted for publication untrue (i.e., not excellent) data in their flagship journal, they recommend to other scientists that they focus on publishing true data. I’m confused. Isn’t this an argument in favour of third parties checking for excellence/truth? (If successful researchers publish excellent–true–data, it follows that successful editors also publish true data, but these editors didn’t…)

    Although their argument is weak, the editorial board present an insight into their future thinking. It appears they wish to update their code of ethics to prevent any ACS member from writing their opinions of potentially fraudulent data before communicating them to an internal review board, so that authors have an opportunity to explain themselves. This is perfectly fine: It’s their society and they get to make the rules; they are elected/nominated by members, so there is accountability through some process. Even though the ACS has a mandate from US taxpayers via Congress, I would guess that the authority to censor members does not fall outside their remit. I think that in order for them to actually get what they want, however, they have to include it in their code of ethics.

    But if this is truly what they wish to do their intention to promote conversations where people use their real names is undermined. If Paul or others like him wish to discuss fraudulent data on this blog prior to any decision being made by the ACS, he/they may have to do so as non-members or anonymously. I suggest that the board revise their strategy, because it will have the unintended consequence of promoting anonymous comments.

    ‘Be critical, but fair’ is ultimately an appeal to emotion. We all have to get along. We all have to accept our human touches. Science is supposed to be fun. These are all bromides and worthless statements. Science is the search for truth; it is fun for those who hold truth as a value. This editorial board have it backwards: they wish to make science arbitrary first and figure out the truth bit later and they commit several logical fallacies in their writing; in contrast, science/reality requires us to be critical of what is untrue and to be fair only to that which is true and logic is the proper tool for this task.

    In important ways how people responded to the Dorta episode, how they were offended by people researching a particular student’s thesis, has a lot to do with communicating science as this editorial board have done. If students are led to believe that a middle ground of ‘critical, but fair’ represents the essence of science they may rightly be taken aback by the sort of truth-telling that Paul so eloquently does here. I would rather that the ACS take the lead and make it clear that science, first and foremost, is the search for truth and not to confuse this with arbitrary and unclear statements on what is to be criticised and what is fair.

    (Disclosure: Paul and I are friends.)

  108. Umbisam Says:

    Here’s something to consider: Google has pretty much become an important entity in everyone’s lives. Google search results have big implications. Google Ronald Breslow: Space dino litters the top results. The space dino was a parenthesis in the annals of misconduct, yet through social media this has become attached to a great scientists name. Is this a good thing? Obviously bloggers can’t control Google, but that doesn’t stop Google from having influence. Society hasn’t dealt with this yet, but what you put on the internet becomes a part of the collective memory. Nobody signed onto this, but it’s the way it is. Google determines which memories are the most important. The public can vote on importance through their own online posting, which one can only do so much of in a lifetime. In my opinion Breslow deserves much better. I doubt social media junkies intended to sabotage Ron, but that’s the collateral damage. One cannot be stopped from posting and one can argue that exposing a fraud is time well-spent, but remember, what you post has implications in the Google search. Like it or not, Google is important. How will the supply of fast information look when we’re dead and gone? What do we want to leave to our chemical descendants?

  109. XrayJay Says:

    @Umbisam – I can’t wait until I’m famous enough to publish the same review a handful of times….

  110. Chemjobber Says:

    I have to say, if you draw your opinion of people based on search engine results only, you’re gonna have a very limited view of people.

    I think it’s safe to say that Prpf. Breslow will be known for his contributions to chemistry, not for his copy-and-paste skills.

  111. anonymous Says:

    How come people in social media want freedom of speech and the editors of ACS cannot express how they feel about it all? Let them speak.

    The way ad hominem fallacies pervade discourse is anything but logical. You cannot use logic to detect sarcasm, scorn and the general tone that is adopted, say, in the comment sections of pubpeer. Logics can only get you so far in all runs of life. We still need our good old human brains to detect the emotional charge in a paragraph, speech or picture.

    Sure, search for truth: people will disagree in the process, reducing everything to “misconduct” is where things get thorny. Am I crazy to refuse believing that multiple authors, collaborators and reviewers are all ill-intentioned, using the “machine” for personal gain in unison? Or that one person can fool so many others for so long? Yes, it has happened, but it’s a minority of the cases and needs careful extensive proof. Otherwise, there is a lot more gray area there being labelled “misconduct”. A call for caution was due.

  112. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @The B: interesting how you equate me with the Mafia. Historically, the Mafia (in Italy at least) developed as a parallel form of government. It then evolved into the organized crime that we know of today. I would dare say that the community of bloggers constitutes a “parallel form of literature” that attempts to systematically attack (sometimes with good reason) the established form of peer-reviewed literature.
    As to your comment that I am a servant, not a scientist, all I can say is you have a lot to learn, young man.

    @eugene, you are right in that sometimes famous people (not only nobel laureates) get the benefit of the doubt when they submit a paper. The system, as imperfect as it is, has its memory effects. Nevertheless there is a basic truth: nothing succeeds like success. We can all be jaded when we see a sub-standard paper published by Mr. Famous in a good journal but making blanket statements like yours do not really advance science in a tangible way. If you don`t like it, you can either write comments to those journals showing how those works are flawed or how they can be improved, or just continue along your way, or change job completely.

    @Dave: the “vitriol” in my comments is there because… I can. You would find my tone and choice of words to be quite different, if this discussion were taking place in the *real* scientific literature. But since it takes place in the world of blogland, to make my point I use language which is provocative and sometimes offensive, similar to what many other bloggers do. If they don`t like it, all they have to do is to be “fair” like the ACS Nano editorial suggests. Until they do, they are fare game.
    “If papers are published in the open literature, I say they’re fair game.”
    I agree that they are fair game in the sense that they are open to criticism through the regular channels of the peer reviewed literature, which is what they signed up for.
    “-Sniping anonymously about your ill-formed opinion of Paul as a scientist really showed your true colours.”

    My true colors? Why, because I pointed out that Paul does not have the stature to do what he does and in fact is trying to advance his career by being a self-appointed vigilante of the chemical literature just like many other sub-standard scientist bloggers are doing? These are my true colors.

    “-Your hierarchical notion of how *peer* (your emphasis) review should function is exactly what is wrong with peer review. By your logic, Dan Shechtman should have shut down his diffractometer and walked away from science in the face of criticism by Linus Pauling, a nobel laureate and by your logic more qualified to remark on matters of chemical importance. I think Pauling’s comment that “There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists,” is pretty damn relevant in the current discussion: when they resort to ad hominem attacks, you’ll know that you’ve beaten them. I’m sure you’ll be happy to overlap with Pauling in this regard.”

    Yes, I do have a hierarchical notion of the peer concept. However, I never said that Nobel laureates are infallible. I said I would find it difficult to criticize their work unless there were an obvious flaw that anybody can detect. Linus Pauling as far as I know expressed a verbal opinion. He was obviously wrong. But he was just expressing an opinion, not stating in a scientific paper that “quasicrystals cannot exist”. Your analogy is not very meaningful, I am sorry to say.

    @A: obviously you have little of consequence to say. If you have not noticed, I am using the same tone as many of the bloggers that I am criticizing. I believe that in this forum it is my legitimate right to do so – I respond in kind to their attitude and their sense of self-importance and arrogance. And I am delighted that they dislike it, since they are getting a taste of their own disgusting medicine. Don`t do unto others what you don`t want done unto yourself. It`s a basic concept we are taught since childhood.

    @nanonymous: tone is important. a message is deployed in terms of contents and form, and tone is a part of form. The more reasonable your tone the better your message will be received.

    @apeer: challenge not accepted. I have no interest in determining whether the bloggers on pub peer are right or wrong about Molly Stevens papers. I would rather invest time in finalizing my own papers. I encourage you to do the same, assuming you are even able to produce results that are remotely worthy of publication. The onus is on you to do science rather than invest so much time in criticizing the work of others.

    @Raphael Levy: I had no doubts. Keep doing that, you are just making a fool of yourself. It is pretty obvious that you are unable to produce original ideas of your own so you would rather invest time in trying to undermine the career of others. In all honesty, I feel sorry for you.

    @anonymous: freedom of speech is a great concept but it does have its limits. If you go into the street and scream at the top of your lungs that “all people with purple hair should be murdered” you are probably within your rights of freedom of speech but in my view your speech would in fact be borderline criminal. Freedom of speech is fine, it`s freedom of hate that I disagree with.

    @Umbisam: I agree with you about Google and about nasty stuff sticking around even when not deserved.

  113. WhyCan'tWeAllJustGetAlong? Says:

    While I occasionally lurk here and elsewhere, I typically never post on blogs, call me an old fashioned professor but I feel the need that my voice be heard. I am posting under the cloak of anonymity because I too am mindful of the vindictive nature of many of the posters here.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the ACS Nano editorial and the subsequent comments of Paul Weiss. Some of you on here have taken it personally as if your raison d’etre has been put into question. There have been words bandied about like mafia (which BTW @The B is highly offensive to the Italian Americans who have made enormous sacrifices to make this country great), the establishment, etc. Get real. I understand how some of the students and postdocs who post here have a somewhat myopic and rather utopian view of the academy. The reality is, this is a tough business. And like any other business, there will always be the elite, the big shots. Consequently, there will always be those who have science envy and I think this comes out in spades on many of these blogs.

    I am a proponent of social media, a reader of blogs, even reading occasionally this one as well as retraction watch, and I believe science should (and will undoubtedly) become more social. However, the big issue for me, and the overarching theme of the ACS Nano editorial about being civilized is that outing a “potential” fraudster can have dire consequences for those who are involved but who have not perpetuated fraud. This blog left me with a nauseating feeling when Paul B decided to comb through Emma Drinkel’s thesis. Let’s take a moment to think about that. Clearly, her supervisor asked her to “make up an elemental analysis”. Let’s for a moment set aside the possibility that the comment in the SI was benign and due to a “language issue” (which I highly doubt) but rather allegedly fraud. It is clear who the guilty party is. By outing Emma, you have irrevocably damaged her career, as she will be forever tainted by this scandal. So what good comes out of this? You outed Dorta (you got that scoop, congrats) but you damaged forever someone who perhaps was an innocent bystander. This is where my issue lies with blogs such as this.

    Another excellent example is this blog about the striped nanoparticles. While I am not an expert, nor do I really care or have an interest in that field, I read it out of simple curiosity after a colleague pointed it out to me. In my opinion what started out as a relevant scientific discussion, quickly turned into a virtual witch-hunt full of contempt and vitriol by several scientists aimed squarely at one scientist. I am honestly surprised they have not been sued for libel. Here, I can agree with @Keeping It Civilized that this looks an awful lot like bullying.

    I agree with @bloggersaretimewasters about the vigilante culture of some bloggers, who have taken it upon themselves to police the literature and out the bad scientists like it is some noble pursuit. Of course, ***fraud has no place in science*** but one should always be mindful of the livelihoods and careers such blogs can ruin and not always only that of the fraudster.

    I think there should be a conversation on this topic and I applaud Paul Weiss for being open to discussion at the next ACS meeting.

  114. apeer Says:

    @ bloggersaretimewasters

    “challenge not accepted.”

    So any future comments you make about Stevens and the PubPeer discussions will also be made from a proudly affirmed position of ignorance.

    “I have no interest in determining whether the bloggers on pub peer are right or wrong about Molly Stevens papers.”

    By that do you mean that you simply have no interest at all in knowing whether Stevens’ publications are correct? Or are you again implying that “bloggers on pub peer” cannot be right? If the latter, you are yet again criticising what you have not understood. To be honest, a disincliantion to read and analyse those papers seems to be the prevailing feeling. Quite understandable if they are not relevant to your field. But you found enough interest in the matter to make several uninformed comments above (while not finalizing your papers).

    “I would rather invest time in finalizing my own papers. I encourage you to do the same, assuming you are even able to produce results that are remotely worthy of publication.”

    Just assume that I have zero CV. It doesn’t change the issues.

    “The onus is on you to do science rather than invest so much time in criticizing the work of others.”

    This is an uncanny echo of the editorial. And I don’t completely agree. PubPeer allows sharing of information about problems in papers. It so happens that I had read the Stevens papers. I shared the potentially serious questions I had. That may prevent somebody spending too much time trying to apply single-molecule detection with plasmonic ELISA if they don’t manage it immediately. Conversely, I would be very grateful if somebody warned me off wasting my time on some possibly unrealiable result via a comment on a site like PubPeer. We could all benefit and be more efficient if everybody simply shared their analyses. I assume you do read papers and occasionally find that one that is not perfect? Why not share your expertise? All the better if you sign your posts, unlike the anonymous commenters you excoriate.

  115. apeer Says:

    @ WhyCan’tWeAllJustGetAlong?

    I doubt I’ll be the first or the last to respond to your post…

    In the situation you describe, the person responsible for the poor student’s situation is the supervisor who made her publish inconsistent results, not the person who happened to read PUBLISHED results and pointed out the inconsistency. The other problem is of course your beloved “system” that often places the students and postdocs in nearly impossible situations and then lets them take the fall for their big-shot bosses, because that’s what nearly always happens if fraud is established. So your softly-softly approach might have protected the boss from some unwanted bad publicity, but would probably not have saved the student. It might even have made it easier for the boss to blame the student.

    Regarding those nasty people with independent minds READING and THINKING about your PUBLISHED work… it’s interesting to know you weren’t prepared for that when you submitted your MS.

    If you read Retraction Watch, you’ll know that some scientists, even big-shots, cheat habitually (and often stupidly). We agree that there is no place in science for fraud. Yet the current system has allowed systematic abuse by some researchers for a long time, partly because reporting fraud has been so difficult (going via your softly-softly editorial channels). The internet is allowing better detection and reporting of fraud. I think that is a good thing. There will then be fewer crooks exploiting hapless students.

  116. Paul Bracher Says:

    WCWAJGA (above) stated that he/she “wholeheartedly agree[s] with the ACS Nano editorial”, which presumably includes Weiss’s call for online commenters to shed the “cloak of anonymity”. Despite that endorsement, WCWAJGA chose to comment anonymously because he/she was “mindful of the vindictive nature of many of the posters here.”

    Perhaps, then, more “established” chemists can understand why many people choose to comment anonymously? Why would the fear of vindictiveness be limited to online discussions and not extend to what goes on behind the scenes at print journals?

    I think the best way to encourage users to sign their names is to lead by example. I commend Paul Weiss for doing so here.

  117. Umbisam Says:

    @Chemjobber: I don’t draw my opinions based on google searches, but many people do. And the first page is all that most people look at. The space dino has also made it onto his Wikipedia page. Now why is that considered a significant part of his career?

    @Xrayjay: it’s not about being famous enough, it’s about what we consider important enough to emphasize as a community. Having said that, if you ever become as great as Breslow I won’t bother screaming bloody murder if you publish the same review twice.

  118. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @apeer:
    “By that do you mean that you simply have no interest at all in knowing whether Stevens’ publications are correct? Or are you again implying that “bloggers on pub peer” cannot be right? If the latter, you are yet again criticising what you have not understood. To be honest, a disincliantion to read and analyse those papers seems to be the prevailing feeling. Quite understandable if they are not relevant to your field. But you found enough interest in the matter to make several uninformed comments above (while not finalizing your papers).”

    By that I mean it is not my field and since I only have 24 hours in a day like the next human being, I prefer to focus my efforts elsewhere. if those papers were related to my field I might view it differently but as the situation stands I have a marginal interest in following this particular topic, just like I do not follow american football or baseball or rugby or cricket. I have no idea if the bloggers on pub peer are right or wrong. I never said they cannot be right. What I am saying is, they would have all my respect if they contacted the journals where Stevens`work was published rather than go blog about it. Actually, in my view the first step is to contact the authors themselves and see if they can provide satisfactory answers to reasonable queries. If they cannot, the next step is to write a comment and send it to the editor of the journal. This is what I have done whenever I read papers that I was not satisfied with. On a number of occasions the discussions with the authors dispelled my doubts. On other occasions (a couple of times) I decided to write a comment.
    I do not like to write comments on papers in blogs because like I said (several times already in this thread) these are not reviewed by anyone. So I might be tarnishing someone`s reputation, if I am wrong. I prefer to follow due procedure, as discussed in the now famous editorial. It takes more time but it is more fair to all parties involved.

    “I would be very grateful if somebody warned me off wasting my time on some possibly unrealiable result via a comment on a site like PubPeer.”

    Sure, but before investing time on any result you would presumably read a paper critically and make up your own mind about it and if you are not convinced you would either drop it or contact the authors to ask for explanations.

    Conversely, how would you feel if you published something and people started blogging about it and bullying you, arguing that your results make no sense etc etc? How would you like that?

  119. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @WhyCan’tWeAllJustGetAlong?

    Finally someone who makes sense here. I hope to hear more from you, as it seems you are one of the few who has something meaningful to say!

  120. eugene Says:

    “We can all be jaded when we see a sub-standard paper published by Mr. Famous in a good journal but making blanket statements like yours do not really advance science in a tangible way. If you don`t like it, you can either write comments to those journals showing how those works are flawed or how they can be improved, or just continue along your way, or change job completely.”

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll try to advance science in all I do from now on. I’ve already started taking printouts of articles to the bathroom with me in order not to waste free time (just copies of C&EN is old hat), so I’m well on my way. I’m trying to figure out a way to write messages from the shower on every single article that I think the reviewers fluffed on, dutifully asking it to be lowered down a journal tier, to the editors next.

  121. A Says:

    “obviously you have little of consequence to say. ”
    If your goal here is to change minds/behavior, you’re failing. If your goal is to get everyone in a tizzy, you’re succeeding. Either way, your time is probably better spent doing something else. I suggest, perhaps, you take your own advice:

    “I would rather invest time in finalizing my own papers. I encourage you to do the same, assuming you are even able to produce results that are remotely worthy of publication. “

  122. Bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @A:
    This year I already published more than 20 papers, so I feel I can slow down a bit and write a few thoughts here and there :)
    Any one of my goals is to annoy people like you. I am very glad to see that I am succeeding :)

    @eugene: suit yourself !

  123. nanonymous Says:

    To all these amazing chemists who think blogging is a waste of time, I encourage you to take a look at mathematics. People like Terry Tao, Tim Gowers interact on blogs all the time. They’ve been a part of at least one big deconstruction (that was done entirely over blogs) of an infamous P!=NP paper.

    This is the admirable spirit that, I presume, PubPeer aspires to.

    I presume that people who are complaining about discussing things on blog must be completely ignorant of this type of thing and encourage them to take a look.

  124. A Says:

    I’ve written 30, so my opinion matters more. But thanks for sharing, bro.

  125. anonymous Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters

    I never said the right to say whatever one wants does not include the consequences of saying whatever one wants. If you slander, undertake character assassination like the blogger you’ve mentioned, the free speakers must face the consequences of their acts. I think I should have worded it as: freedom of speech + accountability. You’re free to threaten a person, but then, you’ll be free to be conducted by the police to the station. Get it? It’s the accountability/responsibility part of it that some bloggers need to learn.

  126. Raphaël Lévy Says:

    I have, first in the primary literature (Small 2012, 8 3714), then also on my blog, criticized a body of work based on a rather obvious scanning tunneling microscopy artefact. I very much welcome, on my blog or elsewhere, responses to the questions I have raised. These include issues such as data re-use (which has led to two corrections, one in PNAS, one in Nature Materials; http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/five-cases-of-data-re-use/) and absence of essential data to support conclusions (e.g. https://pubpeer.com/publications/5FF53E410A9B65348D98301B32B122) as well as basic questions about the interpretation of images (Why are all stripes aligned? http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/stripy-nanoparticles-revisited/). It is worth noting that a number of other experts have provided online comments on various aspects of the controversy (http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/three-months-of-stripy-nanoparticles-controversy/) and that I have had the honor of hosting guest posts by Physics Prof and STM leading expert Philip Moriarty (e.g. http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/browsing-the-archive/).

    I do understand that challenging about 30 papers by a single group may look like “character assassination” but that stems from the authors extraordinary decision to publish over 30 papers based on a classic microscopy artefact even after a member of the group at MIT had established that it was an artefact after the very first paper (http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/seven-years-of-imaging-artifacts/). That this continues in this edition of ACS Nano is an indication of the failures of both peer review and post-publication peer review.

    It is amusing that @bloggeraretimewasters could seriously believe that doing the above could be a career strategy.

  127. Anonymous Says:

    It would appear that a number of posters are getting into this debate in entirely the wrong fashion. As fascinating as this is, allowing the debate to get personal and crowing loudly about how many publications you have and deciding whose opinion is worth more than others is frankly, childish. Let us debate the issue not who has the right to debate the issue.

    I’ve been looking at a lot of chemistry blogs lately and the vast majority of them do not even cover anything to do with misconduct or make any accusations. The majority try to be fun and informative. Let’s not make blanket statements about how all blogs are trash or not worthwhile. What a chemist (or anybody for that matter) chooses to do with his/her free time is surely their own business. If you don’t like blogs, then don’t read them.

  128. bad wolf Says:

    Okay, if “And I am delighted that they dislike it, since they are getting a taste of their own disgusting medicine” wasn’t enough of a clue this thread was being trolled, then “Any one of my goals is to annoy people like you. I am very glad to see that I am succeeding :)” seems to seal the deal.

  129. MEL Says:

    I don’t know if this has been highlighted in the comments section, but it looks like Nature Chemistry is getting involved in the debate. I don’t have access to the article, so I have not read it.

    Published 24th October 2013, Nature Chemistry 5, 897 (by Tom Phillips) doi: 10.1038/nchem.1782

    http://www.nature.com/nchem/journal/v5/n11/pdf/nchem.1782.pdf

  130. Stu Says:

    @MEL – the Nature Chemistry piece was written for us by Tom Phillips back in September (because of our print deadlines, this stuff is written well in advance) – the full article can be found on our blog (for free) – http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/2013/10/blogroll-exposing-fraud.html This is part of our monthly Blogroll column, which is written for us by bloggers – we do not tell them what to write about; they can choose whatever they want (as long as it is related to chemistry blogs in some way). So, this piece was written well before the ACS Nano editorial saw the cold light of day and the topic was chosen solely by Tom. It would not surprise me, however, if this current blog post by Paul (and the extensive comment thread) made it into a future Blogroll column. Stu (Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry)

  131. Xi Han Wang Says:

    Investigating Research Misconduct? Better start by investigating the Office of Research Integrity itself!

    It is ironic that the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) is regarded as a stronghold of the ethical standards in academic research. For those who have closely examined trial proceedings involving the ORI nothing is further from the truth. ORI surely catches some of the bad science that appears to be rampant, but its incompetence and abusive behavior often pass unnoticed to the general public. If you examine closely the notorious Baltimore-Imanishi-Kari case you will see exactly what I am talking about.

    The ORI has very little oversight and operates pretty much like in the margins of democratic transparency. Unfortunately, its incompetence becomes apparent only in cases where their proceedings are brought to light, like in the Baltimore-Imanishi-Kari case. The fact that ORI lacked expertise to properly assess that case did not deter the ORI from performing a “statistical analysis” of the data under scrutiny and concluding (incorrectly) that Dr. Imanishi-Kari had committed fraud. Nothing more dangerous than drawing conclusions from statistics on data when you don’t know what the data means! But ORI did not treat their sloppy findings with caution (after all, who cares about destroying a human being?). To justify their existence as the ethics rottweiler, the ORI invested heavily on Imanishi-Kari downfall, they bullied the institution where she was working (after all, nobody wants to lose NIH financial support), and trashed a good 5-6 years of her life. When she brought the right experts to trial, she won her case with flying colors, revealing the venality and incompetence of the ORI. She could have gotten tens of millions from NIH but chose not to sue, as far as I know.

    Ethical standards? Beware of people who talk too much about ethics! Case in point: Alan Price, the former ORI director. Alan Price, the ORI insider, now offers his consultancy services to institutions that investigate misconduct and must report to ORI, so the institutions can be more effective at neutralizing witnesses and destroy reputations to justify the role of ORI in society. Furthermore, ORI even recommends Alan Price as advisor to the institution. Any conflict of interest here?

    It is true that ORI has a job that few would enjoy. It is hard to imagine a successful scientist working at ORI. Yet, its role is viewed as important to the taxpayer. But this perception will quickly change, especially as ORI’s actions are brought to light and Congress becomes more and more aware of their tactics. Bring to light the ORI proceedings, and the agency disintegrates in thin air.

  132. bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @nanonymous: out of curiosity I went to look up what happens in mathematics. It is an interesting example but I do not see the relevance here. First of all, in mathematics I would imagine it is impossible to commit fraud, since you are not generating data (real or fake). You come up with a concept for a theorem and then you try to prove it. And others try to disprove it.
    In addition, the blogging that I read in that field appears to be constructive and collegial, which is not quite what I have seen here.

    @A: I never said that whoever publishes more papers has the last word but if you feel that way, you are entitled to your stupid opinion. You are one of the responders who blew out of proportion a few of the provocative statements I made rather than comment on the substance of what I wrote about. Say something of consequence and I will respond in kind. Say stupid things and I will respond with the same tone and lack of substance.

    @Raphael Levy: I based my statements on your meager productivity in the last few years. You have published few papers based on your own research program, so you either lack original ideas or you are spending too much time trying to undermine the work of stripy nanoparticlers, or both. Out of curiosity I went to read the latest ACS Nano paper that you mention. It turns out that the data in that paper was reproduced in other leading STM labs, including Steven De Feyter, who is considered by most to be the world`s leading expert on supramolecular chemistry at the solid/liquid interface by STM. Unfortunately you conveniently forget to mention this in your blurb above.
    Nor do you mention that the member of the group from MIT is someone who has not finished his PhD after about a decade since starting. Not exactly a very credible scientist, unfortunately. The problem with the majority of your posts, Raphael, is that they are one sided, not balanced and therefore unfair.

    @Anonymous:
    “It would appear that a number of posters are getting into this debate in entirely the wrong fashion. As fascinating as this is, allowing the debate to get personal and crowing loudly about how many publications you have and deciding whose opinion is worth more than others is frankly, childish. Let us debate the issue not who has the right to debate the issue.
    I’ve been looking at a lot of chemistry blogs lately and the vast majority of them do not even cover anything to do with misconduct or make any accusations. The majority try to be fun and informative. Let’s not make blanket statements about how all blogs are trash or not worthwhile. What a chemist (or anybody for that matter) chooses to do with his/her free time is surely their own business. If you don’t like blogs, then don’t read them.”

    Yes, whenever someone attacks me (or others) with a childish comment, I respond in kind. Why should I do otherwise? I have the obligation to always be kind and nice and fair and they don`t?
    And I agree with you, a lot of blogs in chemistry and elsewhere are fun and informative. I deliberately chose the nickname “bloggersaretimewasters” for this specific forum which discusses misconduct and throws around accusations in vigilante fashion which I want to condemn in the harshest possible terms. And I wouldn`t have intervened if Paul had not started this thread, going against the ACS Nano editorial which I stand by (even though I did not co-sign it since I am not an editor of ACS Nano).

    @bad wolf
    “Okay, if “And I am delighted that they dislike it, since they are getting a taste of their own disgusting medicine” wasn’t enough of a clue this thread was being trolled, then “Any one of my goals is to annoy people like you. I am very glad to see that I am succeeding :) ” seems to seal the deal.”

    You are another blogger, or troller, who highlights my provocative statements rather than discuss the substance of what I wrote. those statements are intended to irritate people like you and they are always written *in response* to someone else`s provocations or deliberate attacks. Deal with it.

    @Paul:
    I have been alerted that you have been discussing my posts here on twitter. It seems you don`t like my posts and you are going to complain to your twitter friends.
    For your information, I did not mention my publications or awards for the purpose of bragging. If I wanted to brag, I would reveal my name and then people could see for themselves what I have accomplished. I choose not to.
    Your complaining about me to your twitter friends is a lame form of gossip.
    You know what they say? Gossips are worse than thieves, because they steal another person`s dignity, honest reputation and credibility, which are impossible to restore. So, remember that when your feet slip, you can always recover your balance but when your tongue slips you cannot recover your words.
    You tarnished the reputation of the graduate student from the organometallics paper. You could have just written to the editor and the journal would have conducted a proper investigation. But no, you wanted your spotlight and you didn`t care if someone had to suffer the consequences for it. You are no better than a gossip.

    I am sure that some of the commenters above will attempt to turn my own words against me… go ahead, I don`t care. I am not the one who tries to become famous by hurting other`s people reputation.

  133. Paul Bracher Says:

    @bloggersaretimewasters: My Twitter feed is not some form of hidden gossip. It is openly accessible, and the tweets are republished on the front page of this blog (on the left sidebar).

    I have no intention of engaging you further in this thread and providing a form of gratification for your poor behavior. You have admitted to trolling here—leaving negative comments with the intention of provoking an emotional response from other users. Your childish behavior in this thread is a disservice to your side of the debate. To quote one of your comments above, “I feel sorry for you.”

  134. Bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @paul
    I never said your twitter was like gossiping. I just found it amusing that you would go cry to your friends there.
    Similarly to Raphael you are conveniently quoting some issues and ignoring other ones. You deliberately are ignoring the fact that my harsh or childish responses as you call them are always in response to someone else’s childish or insulting attack. In that respect your views are unbalanced once again. Seems you don’t like to be criticized but oh how much you love criticing others!
    As for my gossip statement I thought people here would be smart enough to paraphrase it and of take it literally.
    I’m happy to hear you will not answer me any more as you have shown you have little to say, both here and in the real scientific literature.

  135. Paul Bracher Says:

    Uhh…

    @bloggersaretimewasters, 9:40 am
    Your complaining about me to your twitter friends is a lame form of gossip.

    @bloggersaretimewasters, 10:19 am
    I never said your twitter was like gossiping.

  136. Bloggersaretimewasters Says:

    @paul
    Right, I forgot what I’d written. What a horrible crime.
    And you said you would stop replying to me. Lame.

  137. Rhenium Says:

    “This year I already published more than 20 papers, so I feel I can slow down a bit and write a few thoughts here and there :)”

    Yeah right troll, you and which army… probably a disgruntled seventh year post-doc at a third tier institution.

  138. Industrial Time Waster Says:

    This year I already published more than 20 papers, so I feel I can slow down a bit and write a few thoughts here and there

    My God, it’s Phil Baran!

  139. A Says:

    Nah, Phil Baran actually has awards, and actually has better things to do than troll on the internet. Instead we’re stuck with some chump who is too big for his britches. Would be funny though.

  140. Paul Bracher Says:

    Couldn’t be Phil Baran, because he and his lab have a blog. They even post on subjects like data integrity.

  141. Industrial Time Waster Says:

    It was meant as a bit of levity, given the claim of 20 papers. Not many folks accomplish that feat. Baran was the first to come to mind…

  142. anon Says:

    Twenty papers a year’s already been done…

    http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/11/02/faking_two_papers_a_month_for_seven_years.php

    You meant original and real papers? Oops.

  143. Paul Bracher Says:

    @ITW: I know. I was just playing along… ;)

  144. Industrial Time Waster Says:

    Or maybe it was him, and you’re being Punk’d.

    Or maybe I am, pretending to be an industrial scientist.

    Or maybe Paul Bracher is really Phil Baran’s blogging pseudonym to keep people off balance…

  145. Anonymous Coward Says:

    @Chembark

    “Dorta was supposedly in the process of supplying the EA certificates to the journal to put the matter to rest. That’s probably something that should have taken all of two weeks if something had to be shipped across the globe (e.g., from Brazil to Australia). That was over two months ago…”

    Again a suggestion of wrong doing with no evidence. Will you never learn?

  146. Paul Bracher Says:

    I don’t think it’s unfair to ask whether (and why) we are outside the time frame initially expected to clear the results. From the C&EN article on the Dorta case:

    Gladysz pulled the paper from the print publication schedule but has left it on the journal’s website while the issue is resolved. Organometallics editors have requested Dorta to submit all of the raw data for the paper so that it can be scrutinized. Dorta, who is now at the University of Western Australia, and Drinkel, who is now at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, in Brazil, are complying with the request. Gladysz says if everything checks out, he will accept the paper and move on…Gladysz wants to double check the numbers before speculating further. “It will take a few days to get to the bottom of it, or to the point where it will be reportable,” Gladysz says.

    Of course, if history is a good measure, we will all probably find out in 2018.

  147. Graet Chem Says:

    @Paul – just to wind back to your response to my first comment. I wasn’t really suggesting a more moderate approach, I was suggesting a more directed approach. For example, I don’t think that Prof. Weiss’s lack of a decent classical education was the real issue you had with what he said, so bashing him for slightly iffy Latin translations doesn’t improve your arguement and starts to look a little like ad hom.

    As I said before, I support your reasoned discussion of the literature including where things don’t appear to stack up. In any case I can’t see how it is anything other than completely naive to think that we can or should stop scientists using social media, we should be encouraging good standards in that use instead.

    @bloggersareawasteoftime – my question to you is what exactly are you arguing for when it comes to the use of social media in scientific critique? It appears to have got lost under the numerous attempts to brow-beat your opponents with your supposed academic superiority.

  148. unsafeIPsql Says:

    I have discovered the identity of Bloggeraretimewasters, but I’m unsure whether to share this information.

  149. eugene Says:

    Nah, the guy wants to stay anonymous. Paul probably knows who it is, but you should respect the wishes of commenters or otherwise people won’t leave comments in the future. Besides, it won’t make the conversation level better I’m guessing.

  150. yonemoto Says:

    in dubio pro reo is a standard that should only be applied to people who have authority, e.g. the state, or in the case of scholarly journals – the editors of the journal, who have authority to accept or reject papers. Bloggers and tweeters, who have absolutely zero authority, should not be subjected to such a standard lest it becomes a) a restriction on speech and b) a bootstrapping problem – if suspicions cannot be raised, how can work that needs review be identified?

  151. nanonymous Says:

    The pubpeer link for the Stevens paper has been sitting at 40 comments for some time. I tried summarizing what I thought was the current position of things (some very serious concerns about elementary issues that remain unadressed by the PI and journal!) and the comment was (apparently) not accepted.

    I only just learned about the stripy nanoparticles, what a shame that the “process” took so long. It still doesn’t seem clear that Stellacci has addressed the issue completely.

    Stevens may be taking a page from Stellaci’s playbook, interestingly they were both honored with the same award:
    http://www.chemistryviews.org/details/ezine/2054045/M__Stevens_and_F__Stellacci_Honored.html

    There seem to be some very very serious issues with both Stevens and Stelacci’s work. I wonder if they will be successful in simply not responding. What a shame that neither of them has responded with a simple, straightfowrward explanation (or further experiments) to clarify things.

    If this keeps up, “nano”science will get the reputation it deserves. What a shame.

  152. tweep Says:

    Raphael Levy has sarcastically replied to some of the comments above. I am pasting them below, as they may help alleviate the tension between some commenters here.

    What? I base my career on undermining the work of others? I don’t have ideas on my own?
    http://t.co/finrSuKVI1

    Come on, I had the idea that stripy nanoparticles and plasmonic ELISAs are fakes!
    And I was first at that!

    I also had the idea to hide under @chemanon999!
    I first wanted to go for @chemnano666, but hey, a diabolical aura doesn’t yet suit me.

    @acsnano You are getting as much love as I do. I can teach you a few tricks: for god’s sake, use @PubPeer! They love accusers and anonymity!

    People accuse me of low productivity and lack of original ideas. But who else has been able to find holes in so many papers by @frstella?

    Come on, if posts on @PubPeer were citable my true productivity would come to light!

    .@DaveFernig: “science bloggers are the most creative and innovative scientists”. Surely you’re joking, Mr. Fernig!
    http://t.co/QwLQlSIW3T

    Lately I haven’t taken care of my candid blog nor garden. Should get stripy grass with my cutting artefact!
    http://t.co/8dLyPj5Cqy

    https://twitter.com/fakeraphavisses

  153. Graet Chem Says:

    @nanoymous – I think this is pretty much the reason that chemistry bloggers are doing exposés on the literature in a nutshell.

    The journals and some senior academics seem to be keen on telling the bloggers that accusations of scientific misconduct are serious (big boys’ business) as a reason to close down discussion on their blogs.

    However, their actions speak louder than their words in that they don’t deal with these serious issues promptly or even at all in some cases. It simply isn’t good enough to allow authors to not respond to an accusation of scientific misconduct – the journals have it within their power to offer a simple ultimatum – “clear this up, or we pull your paper”.

  154. Raphaël Lévy Says:

    @Tweep
    Just in case there is any confusion: “fakerapha” is a troll and has nothing to do with me.

  155. Graet Chem Says:

    I’m surprised someone would go to the lengths that ‘fakerapha’ has to spoof the scientists they have over the issues they have. I’m glad that you all have taken it in a light-hearted way as some of the stuff on their blog probably is libellous.

  156. nanonymous Says:

    Raphael,
    Do you have a response to (what I understand to be) the latest Stecalli article?
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/la403546c

    I mean, as someone who knows very little about this field I have a hard time understanding how one could demonstrate “stripiness” as a a scanning artifact…unless a bunch (more) people were wrong:
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/la403546c

  157. Julian Stirling Says:

    @nanonymous

    The interesting point about the article you link to is they agree that stripes CAN form from feedback artefacts, and in fact have simulation images of non striped particles showing stripes. There are some issues with this feedback simulation which I am in talks with the Stellacci group about and have submitted a paper on. But with any type of simulated SPM stripes are possible. I doubt Stellacci would disagree with this comment.

    The important thing which is claimed in Stellacci’s work is the ability to differentiate stripes which occur from feedback instabilities from stripes which occur from surface features (see DOI: 10.1021/ja061545h and DOI: 10.1166/jspm.2009.1004). I am personally unconvinced by the analysis presented in these papers or the new paper above. I am not saying the stripes do not exist, I am just saying that the evidence is not convincing, and the statistics are far from rigorous. Also, it is interesting that the stripes in the new paper are hard to see, yet in the original Nature 2004 paper they were really bold (DOI: 10.1038/nmat1116), and in fact if you open the raw files the stripes are even more vivid in the feedback error signal which implies to me that at least the stripes in this image are probably a feedback artefact. I don’t want to get bogged down in a huge online debate, we are finishing our analysis paper on the stripes. I hope you will read it.

  158. nanonymous Says:

    Julian,
    I look forward to reading your upcoming paper.

    I think I’ve gotten the gist of the main arguments from Raphael’s blog and FS’s responses (though I am not qualified to judge many of the detailed arguments, especially what to expect with STM). It seems that your group has put forth some very simple and fundamental criticism (projections, Fourier transforms, comments on image quality etc.), and it is hard for the outside observer to understand why there hasn’t been a conclusion yet (given FS’s responses in peer reviewed journals).

    Some of my thoughts:

    1)The narrative of the grad student switching labs, but coming out on Raphael’s blog (after many years) is suggestive (the tone of Predrag’s comments have been very professional, I am not sure mine would be if I found myself having to switch labs due to this sort of a conflict with an advisor…though I may be reading far too much into it).

    2)Of course Levy and his group do not suggest that they’ve shown stripy nanoparticles do not exist. Broken clocks can be right twice a day, but a shame that imaging a single layer of molecules is so tough (who would have thought? :)). Seeing an image that demonstrated the absence of stripes or the presence of patches would go a long way to settle the debate.

    3)The existence of the (rather vindictive and obsessive) “fake rapha” blog and twitter account are puzzling. If this is just a simple misunderstanding (on either side) hard to understand the motivation behind these. Then again it, it could just be some crazy.

    From my perspective, it seems that Raphael’s group is saying “these images are clearly artifacts”, and I would normally have faith in the fact that there have been multiple published responses to that assertion and believe that FS is probably correct (or at least not incorrect enough to matter). But I remember what happened with the (still unretracted) arsenic life paper. Elementary experimental misinterpretations and mistakes, false and grandiose conclusions…yet the authors still claim their findings are valid (it was clear to me, and many others, from the beginning that they were not). The journals (and funding agencies) have been of no service to the public in clearing up this (obscene) matter.

    I would say that “stripy” nanoparticles are not in the same class as arsenic life, but would welcome your perspective on the comparison.

    Looking forward to seeing this resolved!

  159. Philip Moriarty Says:

    @nanonymous

    (Great pseudonym, by the way)

    I’ve a couple of things to add to what Julian has said. We are indeed carrying out a set of experiments and analyses, as Julian points out, with the aim of submitting a paper before the end of the year. The focus of this paper is a critical analysis of the evidence for stripes.

    I had hoped that at this point we would have received nanoparticle samples from Francesco Stellacci (FS)’s group, as had been promised some time ago. However, after a series of lengthy delays in the provision of those samples we have decided on an alternative approach. I hope that FS will forward the samples at some point but we have already waited for a considerable number of months. We are keen to draw a line under this ‘stripe’ debate and move on and so are working with alternative nanoparticle samples.

    As you note, the various posts at Raphael’s blog cover many – though certainly not all – of the deficiencies in the STM evidence for stripes up to ~ December 2012. The images and analyses in the more recent papers published by Francesco and co-workers this year are, however, also far from convincing.

    Julian makes a very important point in his comment above re. the “visibility” of the stripes. It is instructive to compare and contrast the stripe features observed in the original Nature Materials paper in 2004, and in the JACS (and other) follow-up papers, with those published in the Yu and Stellacci paper in Small last December, and, in partticular, the papers in Langmuir and ACS Nano this year.

    What those recent papers clearly show is that when the experiment is carried out correctly (i.e. with suitable gains and scan speeds) then it is extremely difficult to see any evidence at all of stripe formation. FS has worked with two exceptionally good STM groups on the most recent papers and there is a stark difference between the ‘stripe’ images they have attained and those published previously by FS.

    Instead of clearly seeing stripes in the raw topographic data, as FS has repeatedly claimed in the past, it is now necessary to resort to a power spectral density analysis to provide, ostensibly, evidence for stripes. We shall critique this PSD analysis in the paper we are currently preparing.

    Moreover, feedback loop instabilities are not the only artefact that can contribute to STM images (and, more broadly, scanning probe microscope images in general). We’ll also cover this in our paper.

    As regards the “fake rapha” blog, I strongly suspect that this is not just some random troll. The posts at Raphael’s blog were forensically dissected and re-written. This took a lot of time and effort. (It’s just a shame that “fake Rapha”‘s English was so poor because they showed some semblance of talent for satire…)

    You said:: “From my perspective, it seems that Raphael’s group is saying “these images are clearly artifacts”, and I would normally have faith in the fact that there have been multiple published responses to that assertion and believe that FS is probably correct ”

    There are many other groups, including our own here in Nottingham, which believe that the images are artifacts. While you are correct in stating that there have now been multiple (three) published responses from FS to the argument that the stripes are artifacts, it is important to note that those very responses themselves undermine a considerable number of FS’ previous papers on the subject (for the reasons described above). Moreover, and as we shall show, the arguments in those recent papers from FS and co-workers are very far from compelling.

  160. Julian Stirling Says:

    Hi nanonymous,

    Just to comment on your point that Raphael’s blog says that the stripes are clearly artefacts. When using an SPM all sorts of artefacts appear constantly. From doubling due to weird tip shapes, sudden changes due to an unstable tip, oscillations due to feedback gains, and also often you get “what is that!?” due to “!?!?”.

    For this reason if I was scanning nanoparticles and saw stripes I would scan the very same particle at multiple gains and speeds, then zoom in and repeat, and rotate the scan direction. Then once this was done I would load them into MATLAB align them (rotate and rescale to same angles/sizes) and check the stripes maintain a constant width and position. Only then would I be confident it wasn’t an artefact.

    With the early work presented by Stellacci it took a long time to be allowed the raw data, and now we have it we see no evidence at all of multiple scans of the same particles. There are multiple images but never of the same particles. The studies with changing speeds also change gains and scan locations and thus are not fair tests. Also normally when you scan you get 2 simultaneous images from each direction of the raster scan, but this was turned off for Stellacci’s measurements. Additionally the periodicities they quote are “eyeballed” rather than measured with an FFT, and doing FFT analysis we see that they are not reliable.

    So this is it for me, in STM artefacts are so common that if you see something surprising you really need to design experiments to really check if they are real. There was a great paper on how to check for SPM artefacts when looking at thin films and coatings back in 1995 (DOI: 10.1016/0040-6090(95)06747-7 ). No evidence of these simple tests being done is presented in the literature or in the archived raw data. If these had been done, and were consistent with stripes, then I would have withdrawn my original suspicion, and I am sure Raphael and Phil would have done too.

    As for the new work with the other groups there seem to be much better repeats and less noisy images. But you can’t clearly see the stripes despite the much improved resolution. Why aren’t they clearer? So they use PSD analysis to look at the stripes. In a way it is nice to see them use Fourier methods to analyse the particles, but it seems that they have resorted to it because the stripes being so feint you can’t really see them. Again we will do a full analysis of this in the paper.

  161. Do unto others Says:

    The two Pauls here come from the same place; Paul B strikes me as hot under the collar—Paul S as reserved. Both agree, fraud is bad! The difference I think comes from tone; from the wilds of the internet, to proper channels-you know, for queen and country, prim and proper. Be honest; that’s why you are both upset at each other and it has nothing to do with science, fraud, or correctness, and has everything to do with tone.
    Every single person agrees that the obvious stuff is bad, hilariously bad. It feels good to rip on it and have a good laugh “what were those guys thinking??” Recent example—nanochopsticks— blatant fabrication. Read about it right here at chembark for the first time, and ran off and showed everyone I knew. I mean, the bloody-minded audacity of it all.

    It feels good to be right, and the blogs make us all feel good about ourselves.

    Then, Emma. She didn’t even write the offending line in the supplemental. Her advisor did. Its tucked in the most boring section of the most boring part of the paper. The student is under all sorts of pressure; to work, to write, to publish, to graduate, to live—and something like this comes out. How much of her work is now tainted by association to that? The line itself is funny. It makes us feel good and we laugh and carry on. But the real victim is a real person who has been destroyed by something she didn’t do (which was what, elemental analysis on some boring intermediate?) Should it have been there? yes. Is it fair for emma that her big break in getting known in science was for some oversight and her advisor’s comment? No.

    I’d be out of this business. The personal pain of enduring that, publically, would drive me into something else and leave a horribly bitter taste. All the work that she did do, and the conclusion turned out to be ok…
    So Paul B and Paul S, I think you both agree here. Fraud is bad. Neither of you like it, and when its found the literature should be cleansed. But in tone, I read Paul S and his merry band of editors as advocating a sharp knife, a quiet procedure. Hush hush. Mistakes (even outright fraud!), repercussions, repentance, maybe someday return to grace? But Paul B, forgiving me for saying that you strike with a hammer. The sore is gone but so too is all the flesh it was sitting in.

    Should scientific literature be anything akin to a youtube video? No right answer. Only time will tell. Should blogs go away and the bloggers shut up? No. Should we take our collective grandmothers’ advice and not act hastily? You would be wise. I see Paul S cautioning us not to revel in the misfortune of others. He’s telling you to mind your manners, not to mind your station.

    So interesting that the conversation veers away from the Pauls and back to stripey nanoparticles. Famously bad STM images out of a hot new team. Again we all feel good about us being right and them being wrong. Lots of other groups did calculations based on the early conclusions. Is their science bad? Who else can we ridicule? I want names, dates, verifiable moments of their ineptitude that we can point at them at the SCI MIX and say “see kids, this here is what happens when you don’t do things ‘prim and proper’. What a bunch of losers.”

  162. Bobonymous Says:

    @ Do unto:

    Nice prose.

    However the point is to make sure others know about these issues in the literature so that they don’t build upon on them. It’s not about ridicule. As you point out in the last paragraph of your beautiful poem, if this is left to the editors and journals then correction is either slow or nonexistent.

  163. Do unto others Says:

    Bobonymous- and I think that is specifically where the matter of opinion comes in. Should the process be too fast? In the blatant cases, we all tend to agree… YES! No one is in dispute about this.
    But few cases are so black and white. The stripey particles strikes me as more a rush than a lie; endemic of failings of ‘high-impact’ cross-disciplinary science. Its the grey areas that worry me. The internet tends towards the fast and hot tempered. Shouldn’t one think these things through?

    Is it fraud and plagarism to translate a manuscript to a different language and publish it under a new name? We all agree yes. Is it fraud to fabricate data? Yes. Black. White. Is it fraud to be overly hasty? To massage mediocre results to make them interesting enough to publish? Grayer. Emma? No.

    You’ll find many more cases like emma and stellaci than you will of chopstick nanoparticles. I argue that making the culture harsher, faster, and meaner will not prevent more of these cases. It will make the community even more insular. What must be addressed is the funding and the tying of publication quantity and impact factor to personal value. An excellent editorial on the topic appeared here. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6134/787.full

    You say its about speed. Journals take fabrication quite seriously. They are more measured in the grayer areas, and I argue, they should be. Should the stellaci papers have been forced to retract? Maybe. Should we talk about it? Yes! But we should be mindful about the students– they are the most helpless and the most vulnerable to this kind of public tarring and feathering, and speaking for myself at that age, are incredibly clueless. We’re living in a highly interconnected world, and the fallout from explosive revelations can be widespread and destructive to people not involved directly.

    We should take care, and focus our attention on the core issue rather than the symptoms. Next time you see someone send you their CV that puts the journal names and impact factors on the left column, or suggests to hire one candidate purely for publication record “Nature Nano, Nature Chem vs JPCB, PCCP” stand up and tell them they’re part of the problem.

  164. Newly Minted Prof Says:

    Interesting article in the LA Times.
    Headline: Science has lost its way, at a big cost to humanity
    Subtitle: Researchers are rewarded for splashy findings, not for double-checking accuracy. So many scientists looking for cures to diseases have been building on ideas that aren’t even true.
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20131027,0,1228881.column#axzz2ixaiqvpe

  165. Raphael Levy Says:

    @Do unto others; I agree with your last paragraph; two points however:
    I did not start by blogging on the stripes. I started by writing then submitting a paper. It was published in Small last year after over three years of peer review. Only then did I start blogging on various aspects of this ongoing controversy.
    Regarding the students, I totally agree but we should not only be mindful of the students who are members of the group who have published the result we criticize, but also of the tens of others who maybe wasting years trying to reproduce data which have flaws which have been identified years ago. Here the stripy case is again interesting since Predrag Djuranovic had essentially identified the problems in 2005 but those concerns only became public with our publication in 2012.

  166. Do unto others Says:

    Raphael, I mean no disrespect of course. Your criticism is valid, especially in this case, and your efforts to bring the focus on the matters at hand are respected. I remember my own lab being in a tizzy in ~2005 related to the publications in question, (THEY’RE IMAGING NOISE LOL).

    Eight years to resolve is too long. Your comparative analyses I found linked here are quite damning, and it was startling to look through the side-by-sides. Case studies of systematic failures are critical learning opportunities. Seldom will those thoughtful analyses come from a single moment banged out on a keyboard, nor will they come from the rush to scoop.

    There is no silver bullet, no zero sum result. There is only a sea of grey areas. If I found myself in rough waters, I’d be hoping for a life preserver rather than a harpoon. I only ask that we, as a community, be willing to consider empathy towards even the most disgraced, as anyone could find themselves the victim of someone else’s maleficence.

    My comments are not about new media vs mega publishers. This is about people, and I suggest always taking the measured approach. I suspect all parties agree with eachother a lot more than they disagree.

    Sayonara.

  167. Philip Moriarty Says:

    @ Do unto others

    Very good points. There are quite a number of scanning probe microscopists, including myself, who had exactly the same reaction as your group to the results shown in the initial Nature Materials paper (and the subsequent publications showing STM images of ‘stripy’ nanoparticles). It’s now extremely clear from the tunnel current (i.e. error signal) files which were acquired in parallel with the topographic data that the feedback loop is, let’s say, not doing a very good job of tracking the setpoint tunnel current.

    What I find quite remarkable is that the papers by Stellacci and co-workers in ACS Nano and Langmuir a couple of months ago are now somehow seen as a vindication of the earlier STM data. I really struggle to understand how anyone with a modicum of experience with STM can look at the results in the new papers and interpret these as backing up the earlier work.

    The new results instead clearly show that the earlier images are irreproducible when the STM is set up correctly. Both de Feyter and Renner, with whom Stellacci has collaborated, are extremely well-respected probe microscopists. Because their groups set up the imaging conditions correctly – e.g. they chose gains which did not produce substantial ringing of the feedback loop – then the striking stripes Stellacci et al. showed in the 2004 Nature Materials paper (and follow-up publications) are no longer present. So it is then necessary to resort to Fourier methods in an attempt to find a spatial frequency which matches that induced by an artefact in the earlier work…

    As Julian has pointed out in his comments above, feedback loop ‘overdrive’ is but one way of producing artefacts in STM images. As we show in the paper we’re currently writing, images very similar to those observed by Stellacci and co-workers for mixed ligand particles can also be obtained for control samples comprising standard single-ligand-type particles. “Janus” particle images, for example, are exceptionally easy to generate via tip doubling artefacts.

    As you’ll know, any time the object which is being imaged has a comparable, or smaller, radius of curvature than the tip apex, a wide variety of weird and wonderful images will result. When doing STM of C60, for example, (which we do quite a lot – see, for example, Chiutu et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 268302 (2012)) we’ve seen everything ranging from C60 ‘dimers’ to structures which look like carrots, brocolli, or cauliflowers.

    While I agree with you that science is a “sea of grey areas” – doubt and uncertainty are our watchwords – there are nonetheless important aspects of the scientific method which we can use to reduce the level of uncertainty. These are not always compatible with the “rush to scoop”…

    All the best,

    Philip

  168. Umbisam Says:

    @New Minted Prof: Also, the Economist recently published on this topic: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong “A rule of thumb among biotechnology venture-capitalists is that half of published research cannot be replicated.”

  169. nanonymous Says:

    Gah, I want to leave Julian and Phillip to work on their papers…but two more questions if they could indulge one last time:

    1)I agree with your assesment (as someone who knows very little about STM) re: “stripes”, I can’t really see them in the topographs (or at least differentiate from noise) in the recent Langmuir paper. Do you believe that they are merely “difficult” to see or are just image artifacts? The 2004 paper “stripes” are much clearer…I may have missed it but does the 2004 paper show that *all* images they acquire have stripes (perfectly) coaligned with the scan direction? If that is true, it seems like a trivial conclusion (even to a non-expert) that the images in the 2004 paper are artefacts (as in the macrscopic video demonstration with balls on Raphael’s blog). Am I correct here? (please forgive if this was already clearly addressed)

    2)The collaborating STM groups on the latest Stellacci paper are very good by your own description. Why would they endorse the Stellacci perspective (supported only by “bad” STM), when they must know about the 2004 paper?

  170. Julian Stirling Says:

    @nanonymous

    1) Every clear stripe I have seen has been perpendicular to the scan direction. Some later papers presented images with stripes at different angles, but particles had lines drawn over to guide the eye. Personally I could not see the stripes in these images, it just seemed like poission distributed noise.

    2) I can’t comment on this without speaking for other people. All I can say is that I was surprised.

  171. Raphaël Lévy Says:

    So here we are. I have published on my blog three guest posts by nanoparticles & STM experts about the article at page 8529 of that issue.
    Mathias Brust: Yet there are stripes!
    http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/and-yet-there-are-stripes/
    Philip Moriarty: The emperor’s new stripes
    http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/the-emperors-new-stripes/
    Quanmin Guo: Where are the stripes
    http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/where-are-the-stripes/

    Whatever you think about the existence of stripes, do these posts help or hinder understanding?
    It would be of course even more insightful if the authors criticized would engage in the discussion but they are not willing and ACS Nano editors are not particularly encouraging them to do so.

  172. Olivier Roubeau Says:

    Yet more stripes are coming. Now also in solution with SANS data in this accepted Chemical Science paper. http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2013/sc/c3sc52595c

    Unfortunately I am unable to cross the pay wall in this case, so could not see the data. But my first reaction is it can only get more difficult to image the stripes in solution. But maybe I’m wrong.

  173. IMPOSTER (of Raphaël Lévy) Says:

    Edit by Paul Bracher: This commenter is an imposter of Raphaël Lévy. Please obey the ground rules for commenting that prohibit impersonation of real people or regular commenters.

    Philip Moriarty has published on my blog a guest post about the (in)existence of stripes:

    http://fakeraphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-villains-new-stripes/

  174. Julian Stirling Says:

    @ the fake Raphaël above. I understand you enjoy your little satire game, but I would think you would have the decency to not use Raphaël’s real name on other websites without prefixing it with the word fake.

    It is also very interesting that in your fake blog post you add extra STM images in and draw lines on the NPs to try to validate Stellacci’s work while satirising Phil. It is a pity, whoever you are, that you can’t take off the cloak on anonymity, forget the rather poor attempt at satire and engage in a real and open debate of ideas.

    (Maybe I shouldn’t be feeding the troll?)

  175. eugene Says:

    Why can’t you physics/stripes people send a letter to the journal and outline concerns with a specific article, and then have a back and forth on the official record? That was done before by Organometallics between Bercaw/Tilset and Chen, but nothing was retracted in the end. Still, I think Chen stopped working in the area.

    Hmm…. on second though, I guess that was a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion.

  176. Raphaël Lévy Says:

    @eugene: this is what I did. I first wrote to Nature Materials in 2009…
    http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/letter-to-naturematerials/

    It was eventually rejected; I then submitted to Small and it took three years to be published.
    http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/stripy-timeline/

    We need more efficient ways of correcting/discussing the scientific record

    @Julian: thank you.

  177. eugene Says:

    Very interesting reading, not that I’m qualified to comment on the scientific arguments of course. Glad my field is not having any existential arguments. Well, except for the misconduct and cheating ones uncovered on this blog and others, and there was this young professor who published a high profile paper that no one believes… Still, this stripes one sounds a bit more extreme.

  178. Raphaël Lévy Says:

    The paper mentioned above has now been published on the ArXiv
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.6812

    See also blog post
    http://raphazlab.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/open-science-to-settle-stripy-controversy/

    and very active discussion at Pubpeer:
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/B02C5ED24DB280ABD0FCC59B872D04

    (ACS Nano editors would not approve! Discussion of a paper, mostly by anon commentators, even before it is ‘published’; thankfully PloS One to which we have submitted, does allow preprint publication and does encourage online discussions)

  179. Philip Moriarty Says:

    Raphael’s recent comment has prompted me that I had wanted to respond to “Bloggersaretimewasters” comments above. I hope that, if (s)he is still reading this thread, they will be pleased to see that we have submitted a detailed paper, which arose from our detailed blog discussions, for peer review.

    What struck me most about Bloggersaretimewasters’ comments, however, were the arguments about productivity and publishing. It’s worth considering the publication rate of twenty papers a year claimed by Bloggers… in the context of this excellent post from David Colquhoun, How To Get Good Science . Note, in particular, this paragraph:

    Take, for example two scientists who command universal respect in my own field, Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann. They got the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1991. In the ten years from 1976 to 1985, Sakmann published an average of 2.6 papers per year (range 0 to 6).

    Certainly, many of the scientists I admire do not publish anywhere near twenty papers a year. For example, a hallmark of the work of the IBM Zurich and IBM Almaden scanning probe groups – who many would argue ‘set the bar’ for state-of-the-art SPM – is that they focus on truly world-leading research, the signature of which is the depth of its experimentation and analysis, rather than trying to churn out as many papers/year as possible. For example, in the nineties when Eigler’s group was carrying out pioneering atomic manipulation experiments, they typically published between one to five (exceptionally important and extremely high quality) papers per year.

  180. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’m late to the party, but just wanted to offer this in response to “Don’t Cite Blog Posts”:

    One thing that you or others could do is to constructively educate the community on how to actually go about citing blog posts [in a way than can] ensure that a specific post that is cited remains unmodified and publicly accessible for eternity.

    One good and simple solution is to use WebCite. Anyone can archive any web-page there in a fixed and permanent form: the process takes less than a minute. I just did it with this very page, and was given the permalink http://www.webcitation.org/6PXdasvIt — this link will always display the page as it is now.


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