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A cite for sore eyes

Poor Jonathan Eisen seems to be a little upset by the recent paper on the Paramecium genome by Linda Sperling and colleagues. You can read his gripe in full on his blog, The Tree of Life, but the gist of it is that he feels that a paper in PLoS Biology, on the related ciliate Tetrahymena, ought to have been cited but wasn’t.

As I say he gripes in full and in detail on his blog but the sentence that caught my eye was his explanation of why he is venting on a blog at all:

I am writing about this in my blog because a blog is where you are supposed to write things these days when you are pissed off.

The simple fact is that after publication there isn’t much opportunity for correcting mis- or incomplete citation. It would need to be a particularly egregious case for a journal to publish a correction of any form. A letter to the journal might get published but it isn’t very likely. Basically aggrieved authors can do little else but grumble to themselves in a darkened corner. Or in Jonathan’s case, a blog.

Soon it could be so different. One of the functions that TOPAZ will be providing, and PLoS ONE will be showcasing, is the ability of readers to place annotations on papers. In this model Jonathan could simply add a little note saying “see also Eisen JA, Coyne RS, Wu M, Wu D, Thiagarajan M, et al. (2006) Macronuclear Genome Sequence of the Ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila, a Model Eukaryote. PLoS Biol 4(9): e286” and that would be that. The link between the manuscripts would be established for all to see and consider.

Much less angst all round.

p.s. Jonathan has the coolest licence plate going:

  1. I was directed to this site but unfortunately none of the links to Jon’s blog are functioning. I don’t want to interrupt your PLoS One self-promotion with a note of reality, but it’s not the most responsible thing to discourage authors from directing their complaint to the journal that published the paper. He should write to the journal (didn’t you used to work there? maybe you can kindly give him the right person’s email address) and at least that way the authors of the original paper would be informed of their mistake. And then he can still write about it on his blog.

  2. I’m sorry that the links aren’t working for you. I can’t see anything wrong with them and they work for me but just in case: Jonathan’s blog is at http://phylogenomics.blogspot.com/index.html.

    Also I didn’t mean to suggest that researchers shouldn’t be contacting journals directly if they think there are problems with a paper they have published. They absolutely should. It is really important that discussions of a paper should be easily found from the original paper. What I meant to suggest was that the current systems for doing so are too slow and unresponsive to successfully drive scientific advance.

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