Skip to Content

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.

3 comments on “Corrected: Teen Science – But Why No Publication Credit?”

  1. Contrary to what Mr. Austin implied, Caroline Moore’s discovery was indeed
    referenced in the Foley et al. paper:
    Puckett, T., Moore, C., Newton, J., & Orff, T. 2008, Central
    Bureau Electronic Telegrams, 1567, 1
    Here is the text of that particular CBET:
    Electronic Telegram No. 1567
    Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams
    INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL UNION
    M.S. 18, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    IAUSUBS@CFA.HARVARD.EDU or FAX 617-495-7231 (subscriptions)
    CBAT@CFA.HARVARD.EDU (science)
    URL http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/iau/cbat.html
    SUPERNOVA 2008ha IN UGC 12682
    T. Puckett, Ellijay, GA, U.S.A.; C. Moore, Warwick, NY, U.S.A.; and J.
    Newton, Portal, AZ, U.S.A., report the discovery of an apparent supernova
    (mag 18.8) on unfiltered CCD images (limiting mag 19.4) taken with a 0.40-m
    reflector at Portal on Nov. 7.17 UT in the course of the Puckett Observatory
    Supernova Search. The new object was confirmed at mag 18.2 on images
    (limiting mag 19.8) taken by T. Orff on Nov. 9.16 with a 0.60-m reflector at
    Ellijay. SN 2008ha is located at R.A. = 23h34m52s.69, Decl. = +18o13’35”.4
    (equinox 2000.0), which is about 12″ west and 0″.5 south of the center of
    UGC 12682. Nothing is visible at this position on images taken by Puckett
    on Sept. 8 (limiting mag 19.4). The exact center of the apparent host
    galaxy was very hard to measure, so its coordinates were taken from the
    Sinbad website (position end figures 53s.55, 35″.9), though Puckett’s
    measurements on the brightest nodule yield position end figures 53s.31, 38″.0.
    NOTE: These ‘Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams’ are sometimes
    superseded by text appearing later in the printed IAU Circulars.
    (C) Copyright 2008 CBAT
    2008 November 10 (CBET 1567) Daniel W. E. Green
    ****
    While I applaud Caroline’s discovery and we highlighted it in our
    press release, she was not a coauthor on the Foley et al. paper because
    she did not contribute new data, analysis, interpretation, intellectual
    discussions, or written material to our collaborative research.
    We cited the discovery magnitude and used it as a data
    point in the light curve, but that was publicly available data and did
    not require any new effort by Caroline and her collaborators. If all
    people whose publicly available data or interpretations were included
    as coauthors, one could make a good case for many or most of the
    large number (>100) of astronomers whose papers we referenced! Ditto if we were
    to acknowledge her; acknowledgments are used to thank people who made specific
    contributions at the request of the authors, but not substantial enough to
    deserve coauthorship.
    By the way, Caroline made the discovery by looking at images obtained by
    J. Newton’s telescope in Arizona as part of a large
    supernova search team organized by Tim Puckett in Georgia.
    I say this not to diminish Caroline’s discovery, but simply to correct
    the misstatement that she was “in her back yard with a telescope” when she made
    the discovery.
    Sincerely,
    Alex Filippenko (another coauthor of the Foley et al. paper; in his
    comment, Mr. Austin didn’t mention coauthor Robert Kirshner or me).
    Professor of Astronomy
    University of California, Berkeley

  2. Harry says:

    OK I assume , she(moore) didn’t contribute in your discovery of supernova. She did the discovery of supernova and that also in her backyard by looking J. Newton’s telescope .
    My question is WHY YOU(Alex) DIDN’T NOTICED IT?? and why Caroline ONLY? Do you think any difference between these two sentences?/ She made extremly important observations. In other words, I can say it is her discovery, you just extended her discovery by providing supporting data analysis.

  3. Fred Sanford says:

    I would have been nice for Alex to mention the team that allowed Caroline to make her co-discovery in the first place. It’s to bad the article was sent out to every news outlet possible without mentioning the team that made it possible. How about the people that spent tens of thousands of dollars on the equipment that made her co- discovery possible. The fact is that these people work as a team.
    This article was conveyed in that manner was merely political, and an attempt to be overly politically correct by a group of jet set professional astronomers.
    Fred.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>