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Maybe an Exoplanet, but Hold Your Horses September 16, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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I was just about to publish a long post about this story that has appeared on various news websites (also here) and blogs (here). But then I read to the end of the press release and decided to have a look at the paper which was posted to the preprint server astro-ph – as astronomers usually do with new publications.

It says ‘Submitted to ApJ Letters‘. Ha.

This means that the paper has not yet passed through the all-important peer-review process and it is therefore not accepted for publication. Now, I’m being a bit pedantic here, it’s obviously a very cool result, and in many cases peer review results in minor changes only. But it’s not unusual for a reviewer to find a more serious flaw in the work. For that reason I’m categorically opposed to organisations issuing press releases based on results that have not yet been peer reviewed. At best this makes scientists seem a bit sloppy and not a little media-hungry; at worst the story may have to be retracted, and this jeopardises the credibility of all science news that gets reported in the press.

Anyway I really hope the result stands as it’s very exciting and a great image – but I wish the folks at Gemini had held off a little bit longer with issuing a press release that was bound to get a lot of attention!

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