Internet trolling and peer review

I’ve hit a new low- I’ve taken to trolling comments on the internet:

http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/10/04/are-scientists-being-muzzled-a-look-at-the-record/#comment-1073184643

I’m not sure what prompted me to write it- I think because the person I replied to quoted me, and had throughout the comments provided information like they know what’s going on but clearly don’t.

I don’t imagine I’ll make a habit of it. The article that generated the comment was pretty interesting, though- some chilling statistics on publication trends from NRC (if they are right- see below). As some of the commenters said, it would also be interesting to see how that correlates with funding and staffing as well.

Others have already started looking more closely at the article- see this tweet from @thelabandfield and the conversation it links to;

It’s worth a look at some of the threads it stimulated between a few other folks, if you’re on twitter. Certainly warrants a closer look at the numbers, anyway.

Isn’t it interesting that a magazine article written about science communication ends up in a bit of post-publication peer review itself? Great to see scienctific rigour alive and well on the internet. Let’s hope it generates a more concrete assessment of these statistics, as I think an accurate accounting moving forward will be an important metric of the affects of the ongoing cuts and rule changes within government departments. One aspect worth looking into (as suggested by @thelabandfield) would be the degree to which government scientists relegate themselves to co-author status (with a first author in academics) in order to get the work out there and have someone able to talk about it. Even then, as co-authors, our supervisors are the ones signing the copyright release and reviewing final drafts accepted for publication.

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2 thoughts on “Internet trolling and peer review

  1. I think there are some fundamental differences in what was counted in the two databases. And without someone who knows the inside of the NRC self-reporting, we won’t really know for sure. What I was suggesting was that the NRC database numbers could be lower if they only included publications with an NRC first/corresponding author, and that there may be a shift towards having non-governmental first authors who would be at least able to talk freely. But this is just idle speculation, and I have no evidence of such.

    • Thanks for the added context. I think that any accounting of changes in publication rates in federal science departments should probably look at a couple of different metrics, and I hope your tweets will encourage that approach. My guess is that departments vary in the degree to which self-reporting accurately reflects actual publication rate- it’s possible that folks are still publishing, but are so disgruntled they don’t feel like doing anything they don’t have to for the department (e.g., self-reporting publications). This is an important issue, so a relatively comprehensive evaluation of the data at hand is required.

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