Making a meal of it

Focus-Science and Technology - - Reply - John Sam­son, Ed­in­burgh

In ‘Putting re­search to the test’ (Oc­to­ber, p31), Robert Matthews sug­gests that stu­dents should do ex­actly that – sub­ject the pub­lished re­sults of pro­fes­sional sci­en­tists to fur­ther scru­tiny.

Undergraduates in Glas­gow Univer­sity’s Chem­istry Depart­ment, in 1971, were in­deed asked to re­peat pro­ce­dures de­scribed in a peer-re­viewed jour­nal. We found that the orig­i­nal au­thors’ con­clu­sion was, as Glaswe­gians say, ‘mince’. Our lec­turer agreed. How­ever we were never told why this er­ro­neous pa­per re­mained, leather­bound, on our li­brary shelves.

Pre­sum­ably it takes a de­gree of moral courage to chal­lenge the find­ings of es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures, es­pe­cially if they can in­flu­ence your fu­ture ca­reer.

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