Of course I was delighted to be able to be involved with getting something into print after all these years, but something odd struck me.  At no time were we asked to sign and date a piece of paper saying in effect, “Yes, we did this, and it is all correct to be best of our ability.”  Of course I would have been amused if anything like that had come along.  Our work was so straight forward and so easy to replicate that fudging just wasn’t going to go anywhere.  And it did not involve any conflict of interest or outside funding.  On the other hand much of science involves monumental amounts of money and judgments few can even understand. 

And of course there have been many reports of misbehavior.  Well the Italians are taking a new line on it.  Not so long ago legal action was taken against some experts who made a guess about the risk of an eruption of Vesuvius that threatened Naples.  Even such a guess as they were able to make was downplayed by authorities.  When the thing finally blew of course bad stuff happened.  It didn’t seem to me that legal action was called for.  Aside from saying that if a volcano is getting more and more active suggests it may continue to get more active I have essentially no confidence in anybody’s ability to predict the beasts.  Just look at how many volcanologists die in the course of their work. 

But the Italians are at it again.  (Call the Cops NATURE vol. 504 no. 7478 December 5, 2013 page 7)  A case of suspected scientific misconduct is being investigated by the police.  It makes good sense to me.  The police are quite accustomed to working in an environment where not everybody is interested in having the truth be known.  Universities of course are terribly conflicted if there is a whiff of misbehavior among their faculty.  Institutional reputation is fiercely guarded.  That’s not to say they do less than exemplary work; I simply don’t know the merits of any case, much less a significant sample of them.  But the opportunity for pursuing an issue with less than total enthusiasm has to be there.

As for my own work, I’d be quite happy to sign a notarized statement attesting to its propriety: I can’t swear that every measurement is correct nor that the conclusions are (I’d put my life on the line that they are true, but of course not my honor) but I can certainly swear that I did my best.

Somehow I don’t think demanding that a scientific paper have notarized statements from the authors is going to get to be popular.  It would certainly encourage each to be quite explicit about exactly what in the paper that author was responsible for. 

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