11 February 2011

Peer review: Trial by Twitter : Nature News

[This critical onslaught was striking — but not exceptional. Papers are increasingly being taken apart in blogs, on Twitter and on other social media within hours rather than years, and in public, rather than at small conferences or in private conversation. In December, for example, many scientists blogged immediate criticisms of another widely publicized paper — this one heralding bacteria that the authors claimed use arsenic rather than phosphorus in their DNA backbone. ]

[To many researchers, such rapid response is all to the good, because it weeds out sloppy work faster. "When some of these things sit around in the scientific literature for a long time, they can do damage: they can influence what people work on, they can influence whole fields," says Goldstein. This was avoided in the case of the longevity-gene paper, he says. One week after its publication, the authors released a statement saying, in part, "We have been made aware that there is a technical error in the lab test used … [and] are now closely re-examining the analysis." Then in November, Science issued an 'Expression of Concern' about the paper, in essence questioning the validity of its results.]

Man, it's getting harder and harder not getting criticized. Peer review is good, but unfunded criticism is getting trendy. I hope this doesn't turn into a habit, because gossip around scientific work is really no good.

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Peer review: Trial by Twitter : Nature News

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