深度解读 | 姜文《让子弹飞》

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2018-03-08 学术情报一网打尽 中外学术情报 中外学术情报

原文以From proposals to snarks: the messages that scientists sneak into their papers为标题发布在2018年2月14日的《自然》社论上






来源:Alex Timoshkin/EyeEm/ Getty

    在上个月Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications在线发表的一篇文章中,中国武汉华中科技大学工程学博士生隆瑞就是这样向他的女友毛盼盼求婚的。

    他不是第一个这么做的人:2015年,一篇发表在Current Biology上描述一种新的恐龙的论文在致谢部分也有作者Caleb Brown向同为博物馆科学家的女朋友Lorna O’Brien的求婚。这样的求婚是有风险的:毫无疑问,它依赖于被求婚者真的去阅读致谢部分(至少在一个案例中,焦虑的求婚者不得不请求他的爱人再读一遍)。还有其他更严重的问题:被求婚者会产生被强迫的感觉。许多人批评公开求婚——不管是在YouTube视频还是在体育赛事中求婚——正是出于这个原因。


    甚至连文章的正文也未能幸免。在1955年《美国化学协会期刊》American Chemical Society发表上的一篇文章中,同行评议人的注意力可能都集中在寻找文章与《星球大战》 的惊人相似之处了,以至于他们都没有注意到某个捣蛋者画了一个火柴人在水箱里钓鱼的示意图。

文章的作者名也难逃恶作剧。1973年,《物理评论快报》 Physical Review Letters发表了一篇由美国物理学家和数学家Jack Hetherington和F. D. C. Willard写的文章。Willard后来还独立发表过文章,但他其实是Hetherington的猫。

在2001年,材料科学家Andre Geim与仓鼠Tisha(在论文中以H. A. M. S. ter Tisha的名字出现)合著的一篇关于地球旋转的文章发表在Physica B: Condensed Matter上 (Tisha在其中有多少贡献不得而知)。另外,还有许多作者在他们的文章中声称他们名字的排序不是按照标准方法确定的,比如一次是根据一场25回合的槌球比赛的胜负来排名的。


    在论文中夹杂个人信息有多普遍?在对《自然》论文编辑进行的一项非正式调查中,我们未能获得任何可证实的例子。但至少有一个案例蒙混过关了。从2001年开始的关于该问题的在线讨论中,微生物学家Rosie Redfield写道:“我曾在一篇理论论文(发表在《自然》上)中感谢Howard Ochman的‘药理支持’,因为他给了我一磅优良的咖啡豆。”经我们调查此事确认无疑 。但是,请不要再这么做了。正如我们在作者指南中写的:专注科学,避免那些可能会引起误解的个人信息的干扰。



From proposals to snarks: the messages that scientists sneak into their papers

Hiding personal messages in the small print of academic papers isn’t a good idea.Credit: Alex Timoshkin/EyeEm/Getty

To mark St Valentine’s Day, Nature this week published a collection of stories of romance kindled and sealed by science. One describes a science writer who was asked to investigate unusual crystals in a particle collider, and on her arrival there, was surprised by her partner, who proposed; another concerns a palaeontologist who stashed an engagement ring in a stream bed.

Then there are the declarations and proposals buried in the acknowledgements of a scientific paper. What could be more romantic than an analysis of the cooling power of a fridge? Answer: an analysis of the cooling power of a fridge that ends with the words: Will you marry me?

That’s how Rui Long, a PhD student in engineering at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, proposed to his partner Panpan Mao, in a paper published online last month in Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications.

He is not the first: a similar line in the acknowledgements of a 2015 Current Biology paper describing a new dinosaur sent viral the proposal of Caleb Brown to his girlfriend and fellow museum scientist Lorna O’Brien. The proposal method has its risks: it relies, of course, on the person being proposed to actually reading the acknowledgements. (In at least one case, an anxious proposer had to ask his partner to try again.) There are other more serious concerns: that the person proposed to will feel coerced. Many critics argue against public proposals — from those in YouTube videos to hijacked sporting events — for this reason.

Proposals are certainly not the only messages that scientists have smuggled into their academic acknowledgements. Funding agencies have been ‘thanked’ for steering research by refusing previous applications, and scolded for not paying their bills. Sports fans have slipped in references to favourite teams, and imaginary people have been credited to pay homage to popular culture, such as The Simpsons TV show and, in one case, the thrash-metal band Slayer.

Even the text of the paper is not immune. Peer reviewers, it seems, must be on the lookout for striking similarities to lines from Star Wars — and, infamously, everybody missed that an interloper had drawn a stick man fishing in a water tank in a schematic diagram included in a 1955 paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Authorship of papers is also ripe for mischief making. Physical Review Letters published a paper in 1973 written by the US physicist and mathematician Jack Hetherington and F. D. C. Willard. Willard — who subsequently published as a sole author — was Hetherington’s cat. And in 2001, materials scientist Andre Geim co-authored a Physica B: Condensed Matter paper on Earth’s rotation with “H. A. M. S. ter Tisha”. (It’s not clear how the hamster contributed.) Various groups of authors have claimed in their papers that the order in which their names appear was determined by non-standard methods, including in one case, a 25-game croquet series.

Tinkering with the names on academic publications should not be undertaken lightly. South Korea announced earlier this month that it was widening an investigation into the possibility that some scientists added the names of their children and other relatives. In certain cases, the practice is thought to be intended to give the children an edge when applying to university, a highly competitive process in which, it seems, a publication record might help.

How common are personal messages in papers? A straw poll of Nature’s manuscript editors failed to produce any confirmed examples in our pages. But at least one has slipped through. In an online discussion of the practice from 2011, microbiologist Rosie Redfield writes: “I once thanked Howard Ochman for ‘pharmacological support’ on a theory paper (in Nature!). He had given me a pound of excellent coffee beans.” We checked, and it’s true. But no more, please. As our guidelines to authors state: focus on the science, and avoid the risks and distractions of personal messages that might misfire.

Nature 554, 276 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-01876-8