Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Schon again

Recently, a Japanese television station asked to interview me about the scientific fraud incident involving Jan-Hendrik Schon. Although there has been a perception within the U.S. that the Schon incident showed that the system worked, the Japanese interviewers are interested in the potential liability of Bell Labs/Lucent, the co-authors, and the journals which published the fraudulent work to all those who read the work, believed in the work, and invested resources based on a belief in the work. Part of the unresolved problem is the unwillingness of the scientific journals to publish criticisms of trendy work, as happened, for example, in the failure of Nature to publish the work of Solomon of IBM concerning Schon, a critique that proved to be correct (The letter of Paul Solomon to Nature is reproduced in Lawrence B. Ebert, “Say Goodnight, Gracie,” Intellectual Property Today (June 2003)). Independently of the ultimate resolution of “who is right,” the publication of well-reasoned commentaries alerts the readership of potential issues. Apparently, scientific journals and law reviews (e.g., the claim within the Harvard Law Review that the USPTO grants 97% of submitted applications) alike can be aware of problems with their published material, and yet do nothing to correct it.


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