***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** This reminds me of Wm. Proxmire's Golden Fleece Awards. What I find troubling is the deception and wasting of Prof. Watts' time. --Larry On Fri, 13 Jan 2006, Richard Rothenberg wrote: > ***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** > > Something omitted from this discussion is what Sybil was actually > ridiculing. Here's her main slash: > > "They spent three years or so building and running fiendish computer > algorithms that could analyse who had e-mailed whom and how often. The > stunning conclusion? Two people are more likely to strike up a > relationship if they go to the same college class or have a friend in > common. Brilliant, I think. Genius. It took years sorting though > countless messages to work that out?" > > Long ago and far away, when in college, I found that I was more likely > to strike up a relationship with someone I was in class with, or with > whom we had a friend in common. Now, after the WWW, email, bluetooth, > wifi, and all the other technologic advances, I think it's kind of > interesting that this may still be true. I'm certainly out of my depth > here, but I would venture to say that whether these modern methods of > communication and interaction have made a fundamental difference in the > way human being relate to each other is an interesting sociological > question. (There's certainly been writing on both sides; some say Linux > couldn't have happened without the new technology.) But whatever the > answer, Sybil missed the question. I'm not sure the authors were > focused on this question in particular, but they were certainly delving > into the story. > > In any event, the analogy with The Daily Show may be misplaced, because > those folks have an unerring ear for inanity. As Prof Watts reports, > Sybil has ear wax. > > Rich Rothenberg > > > > David Gibson wrote: > > > ***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** > > > > Socnetters -- this is a truly outrageous situation. In the very least > > beware of Helen Pearson. > > > > -------- Original Message -------- > > Subject: Nature's fake news > > Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 11:02:25 -0500 > > From: Duncan Watts <[log in to unmask]> > > To: Duncan Watts <[log in to unmask]> > > > > > > > > Dear colleagues -- you might be surprised to learn that /Nature News/, > > that bastion of reliable and informed science reporting, is now in > > competition with the Daily Show. > > But apparently it is. Starting this week, /Nature News /has begun > > publishing an online column: "To be blunt: Looking for the point of > > seemingly pointless research," authored by "Sybil", an apparent > > reference to the namesake of multiple-personalty disorders. Like the > > original Sybil story, however, the news, and the reporter who writes > > it, is fake. > > The reporter is, in fact, Helen Pearson, a writer for /Nature/ who has > > apparently won awards for science journalism in the past. Her intent, > > however, is not to understand or explain the research she discusses, > > but to ridicule and belittle it. > > I'm embarrassed to say I was Ms. Pearson's first unsuspecting victim. > > Last week my graduate student, Gueorgi Kossinets, and I published a > > paper in /Science/, entitled "Empirical analysis of an evolving social > > network". I won't burden you with the details here (you can find them > > at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/311/5757/88 if you're > > interested), but I'm very proud of the paper, as well as Kossinets' > > herculean efforts in performing the required analysis. > > So I was particularly pleased when Ms. Pearson called me last week, > > expressing her interest in writing a story for /Nature's/ online news > > site. Having read Philip Ball's careful and insightful reports for > > years, I imagined that /Nature News/ would be a great opportunity for > > us to have a substantive but accessible news story written about our > > work. And after speaking with Ms. Pearson for about two hours on the > > phone, over two consecutive days, sending her some additional reading > > material, and recommending (at her request) a number of other social > > network researchers she could talk to, I felt pretty confident that we > > would have exactly that. She asked lots of questions, seemed intent > > on understanding my responses, and generally acted like a real science > > journalist. > > So imagine my surprise when monday morning I saw that our work had > > been characterized as "bizarre" and "pointless" in a derisive fluff > > piece by a fictional columnist. You can read it, which I recommend > > you do, at http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060109/full/060109-1.html > > (don't worry, it won't take long). > > > > I'm not sure what offends me more: the snide, silly, and ignorant > > nature of the column itself; or the weirdly unprofessional manner in > > which Ms. Pearson conducted herself. If you actually read our paper, > > it should be obvious that Sybil hasn't, nor has she paid attention to > > anything I said or wrote (remember, we spoke for two /hours/, not two > > minutes). She also somehow never got around to soliciting comments > > from anyone else, or perhaps she just ignored them as well; either > > way, her opinions remain uncontaminated by any actual expertise. That > > the NSF and the McDonnell Foundation funded our work, and that > > /Science/ saw fit to publish it were also both obviously beside the > > point. > > > > So what was the point? > > > > According to the news editor, Nicola Jones, Sybil's goal is "to peer > > into science that, from its summary, press release or title, appears > > to have arrived at a somewhat obvious conclusion. But, by interviewing > > the authors of these works and delving more deeply into the science, > > we hope to reveal the reasons why such questions are indeed worth > > investigating." > > I don't know what /Science/ said in its press release, because I had > > nothing to do with it. But if you can find the part where our > > questions are revealed to be worthy, please let me know, because I > > seem to have missed it. And even overlooking the disingenuous nature > > of Ms. Pearson's enquiries, since when does not reading anything, or > > soliciting third party opinions, qualify as "delving more deeply into > > the science". Or even satisfy the basic standards of science > > journalism. In any case, understanding the point of our work was > > clearly never Sybil's intent, seeing as she overlooked or disparaged > > most of what I told her anyway. > > So maybe it wasn't meant to be serious, in which case presumably it > > doesn't matter that it's sloppy, slanted, and sarcastic. Ms. Jones, > > at least, seems to think I'm the one being unreasonable: the real > > intention, she claims, is to "enlighten and amuse" (so much for > > "delving deeply"). Why can't I just be a better sport about it? > > Well, if you think that publicly belittling someone's work that you > > haven't even bothered to read, while remaining anonymous yourself, is > > somehow clever, then feel free to have a laugh at my expense. But > > please spare a thought for my graduate student, whose first big paper > > has now been tarnished by Ms. Pearson's cheap shot. > > And if you don't think it's funny, please share your opinion with the > > Editor-in-Chief of Nature, Dr. Philip Campbell <[log in to unmask] > > <mailto:[log in to unmask]>>, who ought to know that while this kind of > > silly nonsense might be OK on the Comedy Channel, it has no place in a > > distinguished journal like /Nature/. > > Sincerely, > > > > Duncan Watts > > Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy > > 815 IAB > > Columbia University > > New York, NY 10027 > > > > (212)854-4343 (phone) > > (212)854-8925 (fax) > > http://cdg.columbia.edu <http://cdg.columbia.edu/> > > > > > > > > -- > Richard Rothenberg, MD > Professor, Department of Medicine > Division of Infectious Disease > Emory University School of Medicine > Editor, Annals of Epidemiology > 69 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive > Atlanta. GA 30303 > P: 404-616-5606 > F: 404-616-6947 > E: [log in to unmask] > > > _____________________________________________________________________ > SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social > network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send > an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line > UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message. > Lawrence E. Raffalovich Associate Professor Department of Sociology e-mail: [log in to unmask] University at Albany State University of New York Voice: (518) 442-4456 1400 Washington Ave. Fax: (518) 442-4936 Albany, NY 12222 _____________________________________________________________________ SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.