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Science Careers Blog

June 12, 2009

Corrected: Teen Science - But Why No Publication Credit?

In the post below, I wrote "Maybe there's an answer--if someone can convince me that this is as it should be, I'll happily admit to it"--and now I shall do so, in light of the comment to this blog entry, below.

Caroline Moore was in fact properly acknowledged, in the following reference:

Puckett, T., Moore, C., Newton, J., & Orff, T. 2008, Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams, 1567, 1 .

...and that there is no reason that she should have been listed as a coauthor on the paper, since her contribution was documented following the standard procedure in the field.

Furthermore, I acknowledge that her observation was not made using a backyard telescope--although this sort of thing does still happen sometimes.

Here, by the way, is the complete author list of the forthcoming publication, available already at Arxiv.org:

Ryan J. Foley, Ryan Chornock, Alexei V. Filippenko, Mohan Ganeshalingam, Robert P. Kirshner, Weidong Li, S. Bradley Cenko, Pete Challis, Andrew S. Friedman, Maryam Modjaz, Jeffrey M. Silverman, and W. Michael Wood-Vasey.

I offer my sincere apologies to these authors.

Here's the original post:

Along, perhaps, with meteorology and taxonomy, astronomy remains one of the few fields of science where amateurs can have a big impact. All you need is a decent telescope, a dark, clear night, and some knowledge.

Here's a nifty story with an unfortunate (in my view) twist: A 14-year-old girl from upstate New York has detected one of the most interesting supernovas ever seen. The young astronomer is Caroline Moore, and the supernova is especially interesting because it's so weak.  Her finding led to a paper by Ryan Foley, Ryan Chornock, Mohan Ganeshalingam, Weidong Li, Bradley Cenko, Maryam Modjaz, and Jeffrey Silverman of UC Berkeley, along with Peter Challis and Andrew Friedman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Michael Wood-Vasey of the University of Pittsburgh. The paper has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal, and is available online at arxiv.org.

But can someone please explain to me why Moore is not listed as a coauthor on the paper--or even in the acknowledgments? Or why her name is mentioned nowhere on the arxiv.org preprint? I know all the arguments about making an "intellectual contribution" and all that. But if she hadn't been in her back yard with a telescope for the sheer love of it and curiosity, the careers of those nine professional scientists would never have benefited from this discovery.

When the curiosity-driven back-yard research of a 14-year-old girl yields a major scientific discovery, and her contribution is not even acknowledged in the paper that results, the professionalization of science has gone much too far. Maybe there's an answer--if someone can convince me that this is as it should be, I'll happily admit to it.

Hat Tip: Slashdot.
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