I wanted to link to this piece at C&E News on the whole question of anonymity when it comes to comments on the chemical literature. This was brought on by the advent of Blog Syn, but it applied before that, and will continue to apply to other situations.
Its author, Fredrik von Kieseritzky, also calls for synthetic details to make it back into the body of papers, rathe than being relegated to the Supporting Information (which is never as carefully refereed as the manuscript itself). That would be a good thing, but I despair of it happening, at least until the major journals break down and admit that their page count restrictions for submissions are, in large part, relics of the days when everyone read them in print. (They serve another useful function, thought, which is getting people to tighten up their writing. "There wasn't enough time to make it shorter" is a real phenomenon).
But the rest of the commentary grew out of this piece by Rich Apodaca, whose morning it is around here. He wonders about the use of pseudonyms in science, where author recognition has long been a big motivating factor. von Kieseritzky's take is that he can see why people go anonymous (and Rich lists some very plausible reasons, too), but that he's never regretted using his own name online.
That goes for me, too. The topic of anonymity has come up here several times over the years: in chem-blogging, and in peer review of publications and grants. I'm glad that I've used my real name over the years on this blog (although it hasn't always been a smooth ride), but I also think that anonymity is a necessary option, although it certainly can be abused.
That opinion is not shared by the (pseudonymous) author of this piece in the Journal of Cell Science. It's a bit of dystopian what-if, an agitated response to the (now taken down) Science Fraud site. "Mole VIII" relates how some people (an extremely small percentage) did indeed fake scientific papers, and how this embittered other people who had been unable to make the careers in science that they wished to. So they started web sites where they cried "Fake!" about papers of all kinds, which forced the authors to spend all their time defending themselves. Many of them were driven out of doing science, whereupon they turned to exposing their former colleagues as the next best thing. And then, in one generation, science was done - stopped forever, in a hurricane of finger-pointing and snide remarks.
What a load. For one thing, I think that fakery, while not rampant, is more widespread than many people think. And even if it isn't, I think that legitimate results stand up to challenges of this sort, while the shady ones collapse at a push. Furthermore, I find the whole cycle-of-bitterness conceit ridiculous. A look back at the history of science will show that accusations of fakery and bad faith have been with us forever, and often in much more vitriolic form than today.
One problem might be that the author is a bit too academic. Try this part:
Soon, there were very few scientists left. And then fewer. Public confidence for publicly funded research disappeared. The only research that was done any more was kept secret and in the corporations. And while this gave us many new package designs for the sale of established drugs, the actual idea of ‘doing science’, of making discoveries to share with a community of interested and devoted researchers, dwindled, and finally, vanished.
Yep, that's about the size of it - package designs. I try to stay alert to threats to the scientific endeavor, and I try not to take it for granted. But I'm willing to put my real name on the opinion that the author of this stuff is being foolish.