After Fraud: Life vs. Life Sentence

While certainly not defending those who willingly engage in scientific fraud, those who are punished, such as the anonymous scientists who accepted findings of misconduct presented in “Life After Fraud”1, deserve a chance to start over. If only internet memory would fade like human memory, we could forgive, forget, and move on.

Phil Davis
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

The sole purpose of a research report should be to provide an accurate and truthful accounting of research. When other motives such as personal advancement, securing funding, commercial conflict of interest, or “publish or perish” enter, the public is being cheated. Researchers who commit these crimes know this, but place their personal motives above the best interest of the public. Therefore, knowledge of their misconduct should be as permanent as the false report that they intended to dupe the public with. There...

Ed Goodwin
Canton, MA

It is important to recognize the range of kinds of misconduct that we call “fraud”. We have to be able to distinguish between something like claiming an untrue affiliation, at one extreme, and plagiarizing a proposal one is supposed to be reviewing, near the other extreme, and simply creating false data.

“Those who are punished, such as the anonymous scientists who accepted findings of misconduct presented in ‘Life After Fraud’, deserve a chance to start over.”

In those extreme cases, the three-year penalty is clearly too mild. It is easy to justify lifetime exclusions for those extreme violations, just as it is easy to argue for modest punishments for modest violations of scientific integrity.

R. Stephen Berry
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

1. A. McCook, “Life After Fraud,” The Scientist , 23(7):28-33, July 2009.
Move Up or Move On

Re: “Quitters Sometimes Win,” 1 I think that young scientists who are coming up—with new and flashy ideas, are active, look smart and lively, ask many questions at the meetings, speak loud and usually step out of line—very often are not that good in actually producing lasting quality science. Indeed, many locally successful people just learned to show off the signs the current system/establishment considers as criteria for prospective scientists. The real problem is that clear criteria to identify presence of “fundamental talent” before it reveals itself do not exist. So at this stage, if you label somewhat less performing students as “weak” and worth dropping, you basically play the god.

Giorgi Kharebava
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY

1. S. Wiley, “Quitters Sometimes Win,” The Scientist , 23(7):27, July 2009.
Going Green

Re: “Green at the Bench,” 1 I started worrying about xylene and other lab chemicals when I had periods of feeling really sick and spaced out. I gradually took steps to clean up my lab and although I didn’t use substitutes, I improved ventilation and all technical processes to avoid contamination.

Some of my own colleagues have died early of pancreatic cancer and motor neuron disease and I know several with autoimmune diseases. It is critical that we all take enormous care in our labs.

Judy Ford
University of South Australia
Adelaide, Australia

1. A. Coombs, “Green at the Bench,” The Scientist , 23(7):55-57, July 2009.
To Format or Not?

The notion that a generic document could be submitted until the manuscript is accepted, proposed in “Don’t Format Manuscripts,” 1 is quite silly. This would require that the author(s) make an additional submission and that an additional reviewer go back and forth with the authors until the format is correct. With the current system (slightly flawed), the scientific reviewers are an extra set of eyes that make sure the format is correct upon sending it to final approval by the associate editor and editor.

If all journals required the same general format then certainly this problem would not exist.

Kelly Reyna
University of North Texas
Denton, TX

You’ve suggested a solution (LaTeX software, used by mathematicians and physicists) that’s far more trouble than the problem. We’ve all been using some type of reference managing software (e.g., Endnote or Reference Manager) for many years, so the process of re-formatting your manuscript only requires that you click on the alternate journal name, save the manuscript without codes, and possibly cut and paste the bibliography ahead of the tables and figures (this takes maybe 2 minutes). It would take considerably longer to learn to use a non-friendly type of software.

Martha Stokely
University of North Texas Health Science Center
Ft. Worth, TX

It is surprising that we should find this article today, after decades of word processing, and yet we all get excited about it. LaTeX is probably easier than learning to use Word style features and avoid going line-by-line, which is NOT the sensible way to go.

Vincenzo Guardabasso
University of Catania Teaching Hospital
Catania, Italy

1. F. Brischoux and P. Legagneux, “Don’t Format Manuscripts,” The Scientist , 23(7):24, July 2009.

The original version of “Don’t Format Manuscripts” stated that physicians typically use LaTeX software—the article should have said physicists. The issue’s Hot Paper, “Gut Churning,” incorrectly listed Charles Philippe Leblond’s affiliation as the University of Toronto. In fact, he was based at McGill University in Montreal. The Scientist regrets these errors.

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