To blog or not to blog about sexy, but crappy paper from Dr. Famous?

To blog or not to blog?

Sometimes that is the question and a tough one. Keep going or shut it down?

Let’s say that you are a blogger and scientist. I am one of those people wearing both of those hats.

A sexy paper comes out in your field.

It’s all over the Internet and news stories.shut it down, blog threat

Big claims are made.

It’s pretty much the best thing since sliced bread.

When you go to the paper itself, however, you find that in reality it is a totally lame paper. It is very weak and proves nothing of the sort of thing that the authors claimed.

In short, it’s a crappy, pimped up (more on pimping papers here) paper. Some pimped up papers are not crap, but others are and let’s say hypothetically that the paper in question is just flat out no good.

But, you notice another factor: the senior author is very famous and powerful in your field.

What do you do?

  • Blog, but very cautiously pointing out in a very careful manner what the paper does and does not achieve?
  • Blog and say frankly what you believe about it, but without being gratuitous?
  • Blog the hell out of it for the piece of crap it is?
  • Do not blog it all in the name of pragmatism and maintaining a level of political correctness needed to avoid making an enemy?

Take our poll above and indicate what you would do.

6 thoughts on “To blog or not to blog about sexy, but crappy paper from Dr. Famous?”

  1. Pingback: The identity of Dr. Famous of the stem cell field | Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog

  2. Dr. Knoepfler,

    As a blogger and a scientist, it seems like a related question could be do you ever blog/cover the business side of these companies when they don’t align with the science? Sometimes there is a company with great scientific promise, doing everything right in the lab and clinic, but the business side is shady and seemingly unethical.

    XXXX How do you handle that, focus on the groundbreaking science or the management shenanigans that seem to border on criminal? This seems an equally difficult balance as I am sure you don’t want to hinder the progress of the people working hard and doing all the right things in the lab, but you also want to provide the truth to people. Curious to hear your thoughts XXXX. Thank you for your time and your blog.
    (admin note: comment edited XXXX)

  3. Paul, I have contacted people respectfully to good effect and have even later worked with them. Big ego’s are not always big science. They are going to go for payback if that is their nature whether you blog, stay silent or get your findings published.. Can their findings be replicated?

    I agree about the hype, leading people astray and the extreme agendas, in this case they are not Doctor big no matter who they think they are or how many initials they collect after their names. When the operational mindset is “a tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep” Maybe caring about sheep can give us the courage to be a tiger in that we share what needs to be shared regardless of consequences but that we count the cost and prepare for all eventualities.

    Blogging makes a difference. It is likely a good blog reaches more people than journals and they reach all too because they are open access.
    I do agree that there are issues with speaking accuracy in the face of status but I guess I care less about this in my own life because I have found what I compromise to keep is already lost…tough choices and not so easy Paul and very good questions….,

  4. None of the above. Contact the individual(s) that wote the paper and discuss it with them. If the issues are important blog on the science of the issues and the evidence. If you would not normally quote a junk paper why start now? Write a response to the journal that published it, chance are you are not alone. Get together with colleagues and write a better paper, submit that.

    1. Amy, there are a few issues with what you propose. First, some bigwig scientists would not take kindly to someone contacting them to discuss their flawed paper. Big egos are often involved. Writing a response to a journal would be another way to make Dr. Famous view you as a enemy and try to get payback.
      A reason to blog about a sexy “junk” paper is that such papers can do a lot of harm by hyping things, leading people astray, and even be used by opponents of stem cell research, for example, as tools to promote extreme agendas.

  5. Pingback: Dr Famous published sexy but wrong paper – blog about it? via @pknoepfler | Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

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