Punching down much?

Mar 21 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

This popped up on my Twitter timeline this morning:

Go read the linked post in all it's "glory".

What an arse.

I retweeted the above and got the following response:

Interesting thought. What's to stop PPPR* degenerating into this kind of crap? I get that most scientists are decent people and wouldn't do this, but...



* Post-publication peer review if you're wondering.


9 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:


  • qaz says:

    And we all know there are no trolls on the internet.... Oh wait.

  • BenK says:

    We know that most bacteria are cooperative, until they aren't. Game theory might predict the future of PPPR. I'm guessing that there are some intrinsic variables, like the probability of co-authoring additional papers with the person being critiqued, that fundamentally alter the attractors.

  • Ben says:

    This is no comment on the specific work, but what I see as a general problem for PPPR

    How do we deal with a situation where the arsehole is right?

    I've seen it in meetings- a blustering, angry person points out a correct, and serious flaw. Sometimes the person throws in a few comments that are insulting, or more often they just skirt the bounds of personal comment and just state that the approach is worthless and the results rubbish.

    We know how it should happen when the situation is polite and right, and what happens when the person is wrong and nasty. We like to assume that the polite and wrong person will be met with a similar polite rebuttal. It's really not clear to me though how the community would respond to this situation. Agree with the ass and side with the abuser; support the mistaken and defend the incorrect. Nuance is not something that's done well when tensions are high, and that is inevitable when insults are traded.

    Moreover, we can't correct this issue in person, at conferences. How do we intend to do it on the Internet, especially when anonymity is used?

    Finally, this isn't hypothetical; it's happened in PPPR and people supported behaviour that I (personally) felt crossed a line. How we deal with the situation in future is a major problem for PPPR.

  • Morgan Price says:

    If PPPR occurs in a managed setting rather than on someone's blog then someone can push the critic to express themselves more professionally. For example I don't think I've ever seen a rude comment on PubMed Commons (but there aren't that many comments either). This isn't seem like where PPPR is heading now, but it could be.

  • Dave says:

    This bloke's clearly a major dickhead. It's a shame because he seems to have a lot of good things to say. I appreciate his published take downs of ENCODE, for example.

    • odyssey says:

      Right. Unleashing ad hominem attacks on a student won't do much for your reputation as a scientist, no matter how good your science. Or at least I hope that's the case...

  • @PSBROOKES says:

    I think it's important not to generalize here. Yes, there are self-important bigots out there in every scientific area, including PPPR. Is the problem highlighted here endemic to PPPR? I think not. Rather, it's just indicative that the person has a rather inflated ego.

    By contrast, in PPPR I have found such instances of critics punching down to be far outnumbered by recipients of criticism punching down - the old "I don't think you're adequately qualified to comment on my lab's work" line.

    As I've said numerous times elsewhere, in PPPR the identity and credentials of the messenger are immaterial if the comments they make are scientifically valid. It's annoying when people go the ad hominem route, but strip away the arse-holiness and there's actually some valid critique in there.

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