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December 14, 2002 12:48 PM   Subscribe

You are not alone when you comment without reading the original content.
posted by srboisvert (14 comments total)
 
I wish you hippies would piss off. Bush is doing a great job of protecting the freedoms of Americans and democracy-loving folk everywhere.
posted by Fabulon7 at 12:53 PM on December 14, 2002


Bibtex entries are passed around like weed at a Phish concert where I work. It's not a case of not reading the original paper, but no one is going to doubt that a bibtex entry is incorrect. Say I am citing a 3rd-gen PDF of a paper that has no title page or page numbers. If I can find a good matching entry on citeseer I'll use it without a second thought, because it really doesn't matter if the journal name is missing a 'the' or it's the wrong volume, people will still find it if they need it; the same way I did.

Claiming that these scientists aren't actually reading the source documents is a little stretch.
posted by neustile at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2002


This certainly is not a new phenomenon. New editions of science textbooks, for example, tend to be 'clones' of each other, regardless of publisher, sharing examples and experiments. This is a major issue that Steven Jay Gould took to heart. He pointed out that just about every science book described the proto-horse Hyracotherium (Eohippus) as 'the size of a fox terrier.' Did every one of these publisherers come up with this comparison on their own? Would they even know a fox terrier if they seen one? Doubtful.
posted by Fahrenheit at 1:48 PM on December 14, 2002


I have always made it my practise not to read anything I plan to comment on in order to retain my objectivity.
posted by Postroad at 1:56 PM on December 14, 2002


because it really doesn't matter if the journal name is missing a 'the' or it's the wrong volume, people will still find it if they need it

Yes, because habits of accuracy and precision have no place in science.
posted by rushmc at 2:02 PM on December 14, 2002


from the linked article:
They found it had been cited in other papers 4300 times

wow. They call that a 'typical' scientific paper ? But before commenting any further, let me finish the article...
posted by swordfishtrombones at 2:05 PM on December 14, 2002


As discussed in [1], the link presented in [2] resorts to ad hominem attacks on our Nation's President to further a political agenda. Based on my reading of the text, it is my recommendation that this post be deleted immediately.

[1] Fabulon7, "I wish you hippies would piss off." Metafilter, thr. 22321 #403801, Dec. 2002.
[2] srboisvert, "You are not alone," Metafilter, fpp. 22321.

posted by eddydamascene at 2:12 PM on December 14, 2002


because it really doesn't matter if the journal name is missing a 'the' or it's the wrong volume, people will still find it if they need it; the same way I did.

if that's the sort of error repeated, it's unlikely to be a big deal; if, on the other hand, it's a quote of an actual misunderstanding of the original source, that interpretation could be propagated very easily. In the lay-person world, we know how easily rumors and urban legends spread - maybe the "you only use 10% of your brain" example got set off because someone misunderstood or misread an article about what percentage of your brain is used at any given time. The scientific world can be relied on to check their facts more often than the average person, but that's not saying all that much...
posted by mdn at 4:01 PM on December 14, 2002


Since I arrive at all my conclusions based on a priori knowledge and intense logical deduction, I never need to cite anything.
posted by Hildago at 4:02 PM on December 14, 2002


it's not just bibtex - it's quite common to have already read related papers. when it comes to needing to refer to one, it's quicker to copy from someone else's citation list than dig out your old photocopy/search through the library to get the correct details. and if someone can't find a reference, the author of the referring paper is only an email away.

rushmc - that sounded a bit snide. people usually know what's important and what's not; look at the details of any profession and i'm sure you'll see places where "short-cuts" are considered acceptable. a blanket claim for "accuracy and precision" makes little sense - who cares if people obsess over things that aren't that important (if this was important, these mistakes would be worth a scandal, not a curious little paper)?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:26 PM on December 14, 2002


Possibly relevant comics, courtesy of Piled Higher and Deeper:

Number of papers understood: 5

Read the abstract
posted by vesper at 7:24 PM on December 14, 2002


I've been an author on a peer reviewed paper that had an citation error (incorrect page numbers). We (the authors) all read the paper - in fact, we dicussed it at a lab meeting. The error actually came because the citation was cut and pasted from a list of citations that were themselves cut and pasted from the internet. I can trace the original error to a typo on the first author's homepage (the first author of the paper being cited, that is).

I pretty sure he read the paper when he wrote it.
posted by iceberg273 at 8:13 PM on December 14, 2002


who cares if people obsess over things that aren't that important

My point is that only a lousy researcher would not consider this sort of error important and take the minimal steps necessary to avoid them. Sloppy research habits lead to poor results.
posted by rushmc at 9:47 PM on December 14, 2002


I'm curious about this bibtex thing. In what kind of setting do you guys/gals use it? It' not common in my field.

andrew cooke: that's a good point. Making mistakes in citing doesn't necessarily equal not reading. Not at all. This paper may merely say more about how much time authors are willing to spend culling citations than anything else.

Thank god for EndNote, though.
posted by shoos at 5:56 AM on December 15, 2002


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