Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Paparazzi Physicists?

As if the bubble fusion controversy was not enough, now there's the "Pamela" controversy. Two papers have been published on the "archives" which basically hijacked data from a presentation given by an Italian-led research team. The data in question involves the recent reported observation of "dark matter". Doing something I find absolutely incredible, Marco Cirelli and Alessandro Strumia published this paper on the archive and Lars Bergstrom, T. Bringmann, and J. Edsjo published this paper. Both papers used data obtained by taking photographs of slides shown at a presentation given by the scientists who compiled the PAMELA data. Un-f&*%king-believable.

These so-called paparazzi physicists took photographs of slides that researchers were displaying at a talk about the PAMELA project, then used the photographs to write the aforementioned papers! Naturally, the project lead for PAMELA, a P. Picozza was extremely upset by the use of their data in other people's papers in this manner.

To his credit, Marco Cirelli acknowledged the source of the data in his paper. But he said "we had our cameras ready". To me, this sounds completely cheesy. Photographing someones data and writing a paper based on it is incredibly self-serving and is nothing more than looking for a shortcut.

Honestly I don't care what justification Cirelli or the others make. This behavior can only be described as childish. When you think about it, the bubble fusion controversy and this one both come down to the same thing. Pressure on scientists to publish, publish, publish, and get grant money.

But that doesn't excuse the scientists. Honesty and ethics need to take priority. Since Cirelli did acknowledge the source of his data, on an unethical scale maybe this is a 3/10, but it still doesn't make Cirelli look all that great in my book. Taking a photograph of someone's data and then writing a paper about is just lame. The authors should demonstrate that they are adults and professionals by taking the papers down now.

These days waaaaaaaay too many papers are published. Probably 2/3 of the papers on the archive are a waste of space, people publishing for the sake of getting papers out. So stop publishing papers for the sake of getting yet another one out.

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