Heavyweight bout: Encyclopedia Britannica vs. Nature

Roll up for the public battering of the publishing heavyweights. In the red corner, from London, England, 'the world's top multidisciplinary science journal,' and in the blue corner, from Chicago, Illinois, 'the oldest continuously published reference work in the English language.' Ding! Ding! Round 1: Nature lands the opening blow with a linkurl:news article;http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051212/full/438900a.html on December 14 that compared the accuracy of science coverage from Encyclopaedi

By | March 27, 2006

Roll up for the public battering of the publishing heavyweights. In the red corner, from London, England, 'the world's top multidisciplinary science journal,' and in the blue corner, from Chicago, Illinois, 'the oldest continuously published reference work in the English language.' Ding! Ding! Round 1: Nature lands the opening blow with a linkurl:news article;http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051212/full/438900a.html on December 14 that compared the accuracy of science coverage from Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia, concluding that that are 'numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but ? the difference in accuracy was not particularly great.' Encyclopedia Britannica clearly hurt: chock full of errors and no better than a free upstart that anyone can write for? This was sufficiently interesting for us to linkurl:write about;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23079/ . Round 2: Nature apparently stung, because a week after publication they provide linkurl:'supplementary information';http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051212/exref/supplementary_information.doc and admit that 'No test is perfect and we acknowledge that any of our reviewers could themselves have made occasional errors.' Round 3: EB puts together a linkurl:devastating combination;http://corporate.britannica.com/britannica_nature_response.pdf on March 22. The 20 pages can be summarized thus: 'Almost everything about the journal?s investigation, from the criteria for identifying inaccuracies to the discrepancy between the article text and its headline, was wrong and misleading.' Nature?s credibility hit hard here. EB claims that 'Contrary to the usual practice of making all data freely available in order to facilitate a study?s replication by others, Nature declined our repeated requests to make the full reports available.' Round 4: Nature comes off the ropes the next day. They put out a linkurl:press release;http://www.nature.com/press_releases/Britannica_response.pdf rejecting the EB accusation, stating that 'We ? are confident our comparison was fair' and characterizing the publication of the open letter by EB as a low blow. Down on points at the moment, Nature remains defiant. Or defiant-ish. Their missive closed with the strangely worded 'We do not intend to retract our article.' Round 5 is eagerly awaited. It could get bloody...
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