Monday, September 04, 2006

Just to Clarify

A couple weeks ago, on a post entitled Dissonance as a Way of Life, I commented about PZ Myers's publication record, charging that he had not published a peer-reviewed research paper in this millennium.

Many people flamed me in the comments section. One in particular was troublesome. Someone with the charming name Kansas Anarchist wrote:
No, you should be silent about that in order to keep from looking like a completely ignorant buffoon. Granted, given what I've read of your blog, that doesn't seem to come at the top of the list of priorities. A simple search through the Web of Science citation index was sufficient to come up with a reference during this millenium, and a primary authorship article to boot:

Myers PZ, Larson M, Hartwell M. (2001) "Ethanol teratogenesis in the zebrafish, Danio rerio." Developmental Biology 235 (1): 339.
The Kansas Anarchist added, in a later comment:
A single reference was all that was needed to refute your claim that he had no papers published this millenium, and cannot be taken to imply that this is the only paper he's written since the turn of the millenium.
Not only was the Kansas Anarchist sticking to his guns, he was upping the ante. The implication was clear that after a simple search he provided all that was necessary, a single counterexample to my claim, but that by no means did he mean to imply that this exhausted the Myers third millennium corpus.

Well, I redoubled my efforts to find more publications, especially the one cited as a refutation, using all the citation services that are freely available. I was not successful. I had a suspicion about the paper the Kansas Anarchist cited, but I was unable to verify my hunch.

Someone else has done it for me. A loyal Myers fan has written a Wikipedia entry for the irrepressible doctor. At the bottom, youll find a link to his cv. I am not going to link to it myself, because it contains too much personal information--I strongly urge Dr. Myers to replace it with a sanitized and updated version. However, I will display the three most recent entries in his publication list:
Sipple, B.A. and P.Z. Myers (2002). The Rohon-Beard cell: formation of the primary sensory system of the zebrafish. Submitted, Anatomy and Embryology.

Myers, P.Z (2002) Haeckel's Embryos, in Icons of Anti-Evolution, D. Thomas, W. Elsberry, and J. Wilkins, eds. Submitted, NCSE.

Dudkin, E.A., P.Z. Myers, J.A. Ramirez-Latorre, and E.R. Gruberg (1998). Calcium signals monitored from leopard frog optic tectum after the optic nerve has been selectively loaded with a calcium sensitive dye. Neuroscience Letters 258:124-126.
The first two are from this millennium, that third is the one I took, following my original search, as his last peer-reviewed paper. So what does this mean? Well it is unclear. This cv was probably written in 2002, and so it is reasonable that the first two papers are in the submission stage. The second one, I'm am guessing, wouldn't count as a research paper even if it did get published--it appears to be more of a historical nature or even an essay. Not to mention that it was submitted to the NCSE, which is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The first sounds like a real research article, but I could find no indication that it was ever actually published. I searched here, which seems to be the right place, but maybe I'm wrong. It is not uncommon for a submission never to reach publication--it can happen for any number of reasons.

The more interesting citation is found in the "Conference Papers and Presentations" section of Myers's cv. There we read:
Myers, P.Z., M. Larson, and M. Hartwell (2001) Ethanol teratogenesis in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. Abstract, Society for Developmental Biology National Meeting.
Sound familiar? It's the "paper" Kansas Anarchist cited. It's not a paper at all--it's a conference abstract.

For those not in the game, an abstract is a short description of a talk being presented at a conference. Presentations at conferences range from invited research talks at international meetings, which are more meritorious than a published paper, to routine (and short) research reports or poster sessions which, while of value, are not comparable to a published paper. In some cases, if it is a society conference, such papers cannot even be turned down.

Myers placed it in the appropriate section of his cv, but Kansas Anarchist was not such an honest citizen.

Of course, the possibility exists that Myers et. al. published the research in the peer reviewed journal of the same name. However, three facts argue against it: 1) I have not been able to find a citation to the paper, 2) The publication date quoted by Kansas Anarchist is 2001--in which case Myers almost certainly would have included it on his 2002 cv. 3) We can look at the schedule for the meeting here. In the section on Developmental Biology and Medicine we find:
339 B49 Ethanol teratogenesis in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. P.Z. Myers, M. Larson and M. Hartwell. Univ. of Minnesota, Morris, Morris, MN.
Again, this is clearly the reference provided by the Kansas Anarchist. Note the 339--it is simply the abstract number. In the Kansas Anarchist reference it looks like a page number in a journal. The B49 probably represents the poster board ID. So I suspect this refers to a poster session, not a published research paper. Kansas Anarchist misrepresented a perfectly acceptable research activity (which no doubt involved one or more of Myers's students, as this is a common method to get undergrads some exposure to the professional community.) Myers was completely honest on his cv--his defender, not so.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to say that I've been silent on this post waiting for more data to come in. Alas, I'd be a liar to do so.

    I am sure that you are by now aware this has been linked somewhere as I'm sure you check your stats from time to time. You are either already aware of the schism in the atheist blogosphere, or are about to be. Either way, thanks for having this up as it spares our having to go trolling for the snipes of PZ's research publication history.

    Normally, I wouldn't care, but he's started to throw some digs at people for having come up through community/vocational/technical schools. Apparently, pedigree matters if you disagree with him, but if you agree with him, he doesn't think any of that matters.

    Who knew!

    Anyway, thanks a ton - half a decade on we appreciate you!

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