Life under pressure

The web has been buzzing over the past few days in reaction to news that evidence for extra-terrestrial life may have been found in a meteorite. Ian Musgrave has written an analysis of the paper (really a pre-print as the Journal released it for open peer review) over at his blog. In short, although Ian says the pre-print establishes that the filaments observed are not modern bacteria, it doesn't establish that they are fossil organisms. Extraordinary claims do need good evidence.

It isn't just the paper that has been getting attention though. The journal it was submitted to has found itself under the microscope and has reacted to the reaction to the pre-print. It has released a statement defending the pre-print against the "crackpots and charlatans... self-promoters, liars, and failures" that have attacked it. That is pretty unusual stuff for a journal to say and seems to be attached to anyone who disagreed with the conclusions of the pre-print. It doesn't seem like a very good peer review process if the journal reacts like that to critical reviews. Claims that "maybe the terrorists have won" is also an extreme response to the criticism (unfair or fair) that this story has generated. I can only imagine the intense pressure the editor of the journal has been under the past few days and it has obviously taken its toll.

Experiments in open peer-review should be welcomed. Publishing a rant, when angry or upset, is almost always a bad idea.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 08th Mar 2011 (23:04 GMT) | Permalink
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