Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taking a much needed blogging/twitter/etc break for a few weeks

Well, am on Winter Break here at Davis and am going to be taking at least a few weeks off of blogging/twitter/etc.  And trying to ignore email too.  I know - probably some irony in posting about taking a break, but whatever ... am really taking a break.

Best wishes to all out there and see you next year ....

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

NASA arsenic story - let's lay off the personal attacks on all sides

I have many thoughts about the recent NASA - arsenic - microbe story.

Quick summary
  1. NASA announced a major press conference
  2. at the conference they discussed a new Science paper claiming to show the discovery of a microbe that could replace much/some of its phosphate with arsenic
  3. initial press coverage of the paper was very positive and discussed the work as having profound implications for understanding of life in the universe - though some scientists in some of the stories expressed skepticism of the findings
  4. subsequently many science bloggers further critiqued the paper and/or the press coverage
  5. NASA and the scientists have now refused to discuss the criticisms of their work and press interactions
  6. News stories have now come out summarizing the blogger criticisms and also discussing the unwillingness of NASA / the authors to discuss their work
As I said above I have some strong opinions about the published paper and about the actions of many of the people involved.  For example I think NASA handled this whole thing very poorly.  And I think the unwillingness of the authors and NASA to discuss the work by saying such discussion should be done only in the "peer reviewed literature" is really unwise.  

But that is not what I am here to write about today.  I am here to beg for people to calm down on the personal criticisms and attacks of any of the players involved.  I have seen so much out there about the failings of the paper reviewers, about the intelligence of the authors and the bloggers critiquing the authors, and a whole lot of uneducated guesswork about why some of the things associated with this story happened the way they did.  I think it is perfectly fair to express opinions about the original paper, about the press releases and conferences and about the actions of any of the players here.  But I do not think it is reasonable to go beyond that and to attack the people themselves.  Let's try and make this an open discussion of science and science reporting and not a venue to spout derogatory comments about the people involved