Great scientists, great moustaches VI (a Movember posting)

Are you a moustache fan? To conclude Movember 2022, here’s our annual celebration of some great minds and the great moustaches that went (just) before them. Links to instalments I-V can be found at the end for real moustache aficionados.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Movember Foundation is a charity focused on men’s health issues – prostate cancer, testicular cancer, suicide prevention, and mental health in particular. “Mo Bros” grow moustaches – sometimes dashing, sometimes daft – for the 30 days of November in order to help raise awareness of these issues. It’s fun, and it’s important. 

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Praise, censure, and the dream of open science

Marcelo Bacciarelli, “Allegory of Justice” (~1792)

Highlighting good-quality work post-publication might be more feasible and of more value than attempting to police data integrity. 

It’s the dream of open science: people post their work online, the community reviews it and provides constructive feedback, and then the authors correct their findings based on that feedback. Any new knowledge produced is rapidly and expertly assessed by the community as a whole, thereby maximising the input that the authors receive as they continue to pursue their lines of enquiry. Everyone participates, everyone benefits.

It sounds great, right? The problem is that almost nobody in the community voluntarily reviews others’ work. We’re all too busy. Peer review is a community service that does not have the cold hard reputational currency of grants and publications, and while appreciated, it is nonetheless undervalued in career terms. Preprints have belatedly and wonderfully achieved mainstream recognition in the biological sciences, but the majority of chatter for the majority of preprints is publicity-based. The comments area of most preprints is empty, with only around 8% of accruing public input.

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