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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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May 14, 2014

A Unique Correction

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Posted by Derek

A reader sent this correction notice along this morning, and I agree: I've never seen anything quite like it. Here's how it goes (emphasis added):

According to the recent reconsideration and re-evaluation of every author’s contribution of this work, all of authors have reached the final conclusion that we should rearrange the order of the authors and remove Dr. Usui from the author list as observed below.

(List of authors follows)

All of authors have already approved this correction. Dr. Usui, our supervisor, also authorized and approved it.

There's surely a story here, but I'm sure that I don't quite know what it is, either!

Comments (31) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. Anonymous on May 14, 2014 11:00 AM writes...

Probably a revolt over the supervisor's complete lack of any active contribution whatsoever?

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2. Anonymous on May 14, 2014 11:17 AM writes...

Clearly related to the new ICMJE Authorship Guidelines (Updated last August). It is no longer acceptable for line managers to be co-authors based only on line management responsibility. All authors have responsibilty for all content and must meet all 4 criteria to qualify as authors.

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3. Anonymous on May 14, 2014 12:06 PM writes...

I _STRONGLY_ favor the practice of including statements regarding authors' contributions ... as long as they are honest ... Oh, there goes that idea out the window.

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4. Tyrion on May 14, 2014 2:36 PM writes...

If I were Dr. Usui, I would demand trial by combat

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5. Farm Ur-Ted on May 14, 2014 3:33 PM writes...

It's gonna be interesting when any of the remaining authors go into Dr. Usui's office and ask for a reference letter.

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6. Computational Cascadian on May 14, 2014 5:13 PM writes...

I had some thing similar happen, though before publication time. I was a PhD student at the time, and the lead author on a 3-author math paper. My advisor was author number 3, but he didn't actually do anything on the paper, so he told me to take him off the list and just put him in the acknowledgements instead. So that's an example of something similar happening amicably all around.

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7. Lunar Landing on May 14, 2014 8:06 PM writes...

Why in the world are they working on squalene synthase inhibitors!!? That should be a big clue that something is wrong right there.

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8. Rock on May 14, 2014 8:07 PM writes...

Seeing Sugita moved from the middle to the last author begs this question: In a chemistry paper, assuming the corresponding author is first, would you rather be the second author or the last? I have a feeling chemists and biologists would answer this question differently.

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9. hypnos on May 15, 2014 1:32 AM writes...

There is a strong cultural difference here among different areas of research. In the natural sciences, it seems to be the default that the supervisor *has* to be an author on every paper - even if there was not much scientific input from his side (other than providing lab space and funding, which is more a management task than a scientific task).

My supervisor (mathematics) on the other hand actively refused to be an author on some of my publications since he felt that he did not contribute enough to the publication. (At the same time, he published about ten single-author papers per year on average, which is far more common in this area.)

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10. sepisp on May 15, 2014 1:46 AM writes...

#8: I thought the corresponding author is always last and always the professor/PI. That's because he has tenure and his contact info (to the university) is likely to stay current. The first author should be the one who actually wrote the manuscript.

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11. Anonymous on May 15, 2014 3:12 AM writes...

@ 9/10 I'm loving the assumption that a PI is always male. It's especially galling coming in the comments on the blog post just after the google / Dorothy Hodgkin post.

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12. Anonymous on May 15, 2014 8:35 AM writes...

Who's assuming anyone is male. Our language naturally uses the male gender to mean potentially both, similar to what "one" does in other languages. It's just too cumbersome to write "he/she" for the sake of political correctness everywhere, so interpret "he" as it was meant to be taken.

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13. Catherine on May 15, 2014 11:40 AM writes...

@12 - I am a native English speaker. I absolutely, fervently disagree with this statement. I have never encountered anyone else who held this opinion, ever, and recommend you quickly stop using this shorthand immediately if you would like not to be viewed as extremely sexist.

If you want to use a genderless shorthand, I've seen 've' and 'vis' used frequently.

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14. Catherine on May 15, 2014 11:41 AM writes...

@12 - I am a native English speaker. I absolutely, fervently disagree with this statement. I have never encountered anyone else who held this opinion, ever, and recommend you quickly stop using this shorthand immediately if you would like not to be viewed as extremely sexist. Indeed, it is this kind of attitude that is propagating a variety of gender biases.

If you want to use a genderless shorthand, I've seen 've' and 'vis' used frequently.

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15. NJBiologist on May 15, 2014 11:48 AM writes...

@Catherine, 13/14: I am also a native English speaker, and was taught in high school that he/his is either gender-neutral or masculine. In college, I found people who believe it is only masculine, but did not find them to be a majority. I have never seen "ve" or "vis" used in written language, and Google seems to think "ve" is used most frequently as the stock ticker for Veolia Environmental.

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16. Vader on May 15, 2014 12:01 PM writes...

@13 Catherine

I am also a native English speaker, and I think you're full of it.

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17. Chad on May 15, 2014 1:09 PM writes...

@Gender-neutrality: The neutral usage of male-gendered terms has been standard in English for a very long time, but has (relatively) recently come under fire for perpetuating default-male thinking. We have growing movements now to find acceptable alternatives, and I fully expect English to have adopted one or two a few generations from now. As it stands, different camps use a wide variety of terms easily found on Wikipedia. (I'm partial to singular "they", but understand the aesthetic hesitation.)

Interestingly, older forms of English had a gender-neutral that developed into today's "it", but at the time didn't connote a lack of personhood.

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18. Anonymous on May 15, 2014 1:10 PM writes...

@13 Catherine: Did you just win Eurovision?

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19. Hap on May 15, 2014 1:19 PM writes...

Carbon-Based Curiosities nominated "kitty" as the gender-neutral pronoun. It's better than "one", I think.

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20. Michael Winner on May 15, 2014 4:56 PM writes...

@12 onwards:
Calm down 'guys'!

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21. Reader on May 15, 2014 7:52 PM writes...

@13 - I frequently encounter male pronouns used in a genderless fashion. I've only encountered "ve" and "vis" in extreme social justice warrior propaganda.

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22. Arturo on May 15, 2014 8:03 PM writes...

@Catherine This is why nobody ever invites you to parties.

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23. sepisp on May 16, 2014 2:02 AM writes...

#11: Calm down. English is not even my second language, it's the third. And we were taught in school that "he" is the equivalent of our gender-neutral pronoun in this context. As a nonnative speaker, I don't start reinventing or questioning the established English grammar as taught. As far as I am concerned, it's your fault, Anglophones. My native language is so neutral that I would've used the equivalent of "it" there. That is, there is no "he/she" distinction, in colloquial speech most people even ignore the "he/it" distinction. For the record, I've worked with several female PIs including a thesis advisor.

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24. Anonymous on May 16, 2014 2:44 AM writes...

"He" according to

Pronoun [nominative he, possessive his, objective him; plural nominative they, possessive their, theirs, objective them.]
1. the male person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; that male.
2. anyone (without reference to sex); that person: He who hesitates is lost.
noun [plural hes.]

Matter resolved. Now feminists please go away and do something useful with your gender.

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25. Chad on May 16, 2014 3:04 AM writes...

@24: For English, dictionaries are a descriptive rather than prescriptive tool. Dictionaries can document usage, and so demonstrate precedent and provenance, but by their nature must always fall behind the times - and mustn't be used to quash the flow of language, no matter how poorly we regard any given development.
If you want a prescribed language, I might advise French, or Esperanto, but even those are fighting uphill battles.

And for my part, this isn't a matter of feminism; I'm simply agender.

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26. Anonymous on May 16, 2014 3:13 AM writes...

@24 says a man.

I don't know if this is a UK/US thing, but we weren’t taught at school that he could be gender neutral and as using he is probably going to irritate half the population, why not use they / their instead?

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27. Anonymous on May 16, 2014 5:40 AM writes...

@26: Because I prefer to use perfectly good English (I am English) and focus on the content of what I say. If people misinterpret my words then I am happy to explain their intended meaning (once, if required), but I'm not going to worry about changing perfectly good English to appease a bunch of overly sensitive feminists.

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28. Anonymous on May 16, 2014 5:47 AM writes...

@26: Sorry that you weren't fully educated, but now you know: "he" can be gender neutral.

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29. Anonymous on May 16, 2014 5:52 AM writes...

@27 that is, of course, your prerogative. It would be nice if you could try to imagine what it feels like to constantly see your gender casually excluded though. Every time you see he replace it with she and see if you think you would feel entirely comfortable if our roles were reversed.

At the very least you should be aware that your insistence on using outdated language does annoy a lot of people and is entirely unnecessary when there are perfectly acceptable gender neutral options to choose from.

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30. Anonymous on May 16, 2014 5:53 AM writes...

@25: Im nUT soor Iy agrae WTh YOo ThIt DICKshionarEEs Und GUD InglISH IS Nutt eempotent.


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31. Anonymous on May 16, 2014 5:56 AM writes...

@29: "Every time you see he replace it with she and see if you think you would feel entirely comfortable if our roles were reversed."

Actually I have seen this often, and the only thing I think is that here's a feminist with a chip on their shoulder, or someone awkwardly trying to be politically correct for the sake of it. Otherwise I just don't take it at all to imply that a female must be involved.

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