What is the role of the daily news operation of a magazine such as
But some of the readers of our online daily news, available at
Twice recently, our intrepid
The resulting stories still included some questioning of results, but the stories were substantially weaker than they might have been.
And another reader, whose letter we posted,1 roundly criticized us for reporting that W. French Anderson, known as the father of gene therapy, had been arrested for alleged child molestation. The reader wrote that he was "disappointed in [our] failure to keep the private life of a scientist separate from science in [our] reporting," that we had violated Anderson's civil liberties, and that he would stop reading our magazine until we apologized publicly to Anderson.
What these reactions seem to have in common is a sense that
Here's why, in a nutshell: If the weather reporter provides information only on days that are warm, sunny, and clear, would the reports be helpful to you? And would you believe anything you heard? Likewise, if we report only good news, no one in his or her right mind will trust us. They'll assume we have an agenda.
Sorry, folks, but when a leading scientist in a hot field is arrested, it's news. And, the reporting of his arrest doesn't assume Anderson's guilt. Far from it; the story was indeed balanced.3 It's fair to say that Anderson will have things other than research on his mind for some time, and that affects science.
Scientists should be enthusiastic about helping clarify the importance, or lack of importance, of published research. We'll be brash here and suggest that it would be hypocritical not to do so. A disconnect exists between scientists who seek the unvarnished reality of nature in their work but avoid the same level of candor in dealing with the organization of science. We don't mean scientists should snipe at others' research for nonscientific reasons, or engage in
We're the news journal for the life scientist. Help us tell the whole story. Science will be better for it.
Richard Gallagher, Editor
Ivan Oransky, Web Editorial Director