There’s been a big brouhaha going on over a certain letter to the editor in NEMJ since last week. It was all started with a post made by Isis which combined a short scientific critique with some snarky comments/pictures on a recent paper in NEJM. It spread to Drugmonkey and A blog around the clock, the authors of the paper got involved…(not to mention several others including Scientistmother..Abel Pharmboy and more on Drugmonkey.) … and while I was at home this weekend channeling Julia Childs and playing with my kids- the controversy spiraled wildly out of control.
A couple of thoughts, these are general only- as I’m not going to post anything about the paper as it is totally out of my area.
1. I love that serious scientific critique is occurring on the blogs and think this is a totally appropriate venue. I especially enjoyed the exchanges between Bora and the paper authors (posted on a blog around the clock- read the comments)- are thorough and well-reasoned. It especially struck me that the authors of the original paper and Bora seem to have somewhat overlapping backgrounds- and these people can learn from each other. … and they were brought together by a blog post. Talking to people all the time who do just exactly what you do is kinda boring- its totally awesome to find people with overlapping expertise and a somewhat different perspective..and if blogs can help you do that I say more power to them.
2. I was disturbed by the tone of the original post, and in defense of the authors of said letter- I can see why they were bothered by the tone of the original post and were defensive in their response. It’s freaking easy to flame someone using text- we ALL know this from using (and abusing) email. On a blog you do this anonymously and export this to a huge audience. If you are going to flame someone on your blog- mixed up with real scientific critique- you must ask yourself are the flames really necessary to make your point??? Any well reasoned scientific argument should stand on its own merit- and shouldn’t require gimmicks like comparing the authors’ pondering their data to teddy bears on the john, etc.. And trying to be entertaining at someone else’s expense is just unkind.
And goodness- heaven forbid your institution asks one of the flamed for a letter for your tenure package… but shit happens (no pun intended). I know, I know- you are writing under a pseudonym- but anyone who invests a few minutes worth of effort can figure out who I am- and if they can figure me out- surely they can find you too.
3. Why why why, must we call each other names? CPP- I’m just tired of this ‘Dude, you’re a humorless whiny-ass titty-baby’- Calling people names doesn’t make one more credible. Various people had their say- the author’s made their point and complained about the tone of the post- the discussion has actually evolved into something useful at Bora’s place. If you want to add something to the discussion, then add something to the discussion- otherwise keep the pointless back row chatter to a minimum.
This is the point at which DrMrA would point out that I should step out of the role of the ‘moral authority’. To which I say- its Monday, I’m cranky, and finally it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to.
4. Cultural sensitivity is totally lacking. I’ve seen the author’s of said letter derided in various places for lacking a sense of humor or taking themselves to seriously in their offense at the original post- not exactly in those words- but nevertheless. People- the internet is an international place- not bound by your exclusive cultural sensitivities. What may not be offensive to me with my ‘american’ system of values and the mindset in which I was raised- might be totally offensive to someone from another ethnic background. Let’s try to keep that in mind.
I’m sure there is a #5… but I tire of being the moral authority… and I have actual work to do today as well…