***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** David, You're right, it wasn't you. My mistake. But if it were you, and even though it isn't, what need is there really, to defend against a satire? Someone else's idea of a mockery does not undo years of work, nor does it unravel social science generally. How can it? .If anything, it's a sign that our work and this field are emerging in the culture's imagination and attention. I would imagine one would be more concerned about another scholar criticizing one's work in a scholarly paper than over an essay in a scholarly magazine. And even then, so what? The neat thing is that the ideas are being discussed. This is exciting! Furthermore, there might not be any harm in looking at what we are being made fun of...about. What a bad response would be is to take this all personally, carry umbrage about it and cry injustice. I don't think social network analysis and related concepts and ideas are so weak that a joke, even an unfunny one, can dismantle them. And in a sphere of peer review, I know the temptation is to equate our egos with our work, but this is dangerous. My ideas are not me, nor are your ideas you. We are both more than the sum of them, and no crass or hilarious writing, skit or other inane buffoonery by anyone else can undo that. Disagree if you like, but I think we don't need to be upset. That will only make me wonder if the mockery is somehow merited. Sincerely, Malcolm _____ From: David Gibson [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2006 2:20 PM To: Edwards, Malcolm Subject: Re: [Fwd: Nature's fake news] Malcolm -- The situations aren't really comparable: I'm not the one who was attacked and this wasn't a review but a mockery, plus a jab at social science research generally. David Edwards, Malcolm wrote: ***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** Dear David, Before you respond to the satire, I recommend "Being Reviewed: The ABM and Its Theory", an essay by Paul Fussell. I think the essay is in one of his books, but I don't remember the title. A reference is found to it here: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2001/03/02/authors/ -Malcolm -----Original Message----- From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of David Gibson Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2006 11:02 AM To: [log in to unmask] Subject: [Fwd: Nature's fake news] ***** 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]> <mailto:[log in to unmask]> To: Duncan Watts <[log in to unmask]> <mailto:[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]> <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/> <http://cdg.columbia.edu/> -- David Gibson Assistant Professor Department of Sociology University of Pennsylvania 3718 Locust Walk Philadelphia, PA 19104-6299 http://www.soc.upenn.edu/~gibsond/ "Secure Server" made the following annotations on 01/12/2006 02:59:19 PM ------------------------------"This e-mail, including attachments, may include confidential and/or proprietary information, and may be used only by the person or entity to which it is addressed. If the reader of this e-mail is not the intended recipient or his or her authorized agent, the reader is hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this e-mail is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender by replying to this message and delete this e-mail immediately." ============================== _____________________________________________________________________ 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.