Saturday, January 26, 2008

An annoying phrase

Am I alone in being irritated by the phrase, "We and others have found..."? You see it often in scientific papers, often those written by the also-rans. Whereas a work of art is often a unique conception, in science it seldom is. If you read the literature and are au fait with current scientific thought you can often predict what the next discovery will be. There are only so many possibilities and the application of the right technique will often reveal the answer. The discovery of the JAK2 mutations in myeloproliferative disease is a good example where several labs published the discovery at around the same time. Who first had the idea is obfuscated by the noise of many papers. Of course, this sort of thing is often a bit of concealed fraud, because nothing gets published without the refereeing process and referees have been known to delay a paper until they have dupilcated the work themselves.

To write, "We and others have found..." is not so great a sin, but it makes 'self' more prominent than is fair. You may wll have been in the race and only chance has made you second or third or sixteenth, but a more correct summary might be, "Others have found and we have confirmed...".

You see, even in science a little bit of genius is sometimes required.

No comments: