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For chrissake, just make up an analysis already! We have a lab here to run, y’know?

Ben Hyde sends along this:

Stuck in the middle of the supplemental data, reporting the total workup for their compounds, was this gem:

Emma, please insert NMR data here! where are they? and for this compound, just make up an elemental analysis . . .

I’m reminded of our recent discussions of coauthorship, where I argued that I see real advantages to having multiple people taking responsibility for the result. Jay Verkuilen responded: “On the flipside of collaboration . . . is diffusion of responsibility, where everybody thinks someone else ‘has that problem’ and thus things don’t get solved.” That’s what seems to have happened (hilariously) here.


  1. Rahul says:

    I’m guessing his excuse will be a lack of command over English and “make up” was used as “do” or “run” or “prepare”.

    • Ney says:

      I guess you could be right. Being a German native speaker myself
      (as probably the author of the note), I first read this “make up”
      expression as meaning “perform” or something like that, before I
      became aware that this is a kind of false friend and does mean
      something very different indeed.

    • You may be right that this will be the excuse, but the word “just” really belies this possibility, in this context it clearly means “instead of actually performing it” and I don’t think a non-native speaker who intended the phrase to mean “perform the elemental analysis” would have used the word just.

      • Rahul says:

        Hmm…I’m no native speaker but still couldn’t someone say “Arghh! Just go and make the piping longer like he wanted!” or “Why don’t you just make those damn changes and get rid of him” or “Just do whatever it takes to make him happy” something like that?

        PS. I’m not naive enough to believe that’s what he meant! :)

  2. Rahul says:

    As we follow this story, let’s remember to pass out generous portions of blame to the Editors and Referees too. In most debates regarding the utility of professional Journals, they have us believe that professional proofreading is one of the value additions they have to offer. Sigh.

    PS. Yes, I know this was in the Supplementary Info.

    • Shravan Vasishth says:

      A side-note on the utility of journals and the value they are supposed to add:

      Not only do journals not proofread, they can even mangle camera-ready copy. I once delivered a LaTeXed camera-ready paper to Springer, and they managed to introduce a typo in *first word* of the title:

      You have to actually go into the .tex file to introduce a typo into the title.

      • konrad says:

        Oooh, that hurts – really obfuscates the meaning. Do people cite it using the published title? Couldn’t you get them to correct it?

        • Shravan Vasishth says:

          It was 10 years ago; I was young (academically anyway). I didn’t think I could just ask them to fix it.

  3. Jose says:

    For non-chemists reading, it’s important to note that elemental analyses are notoriously finicky, and only give really excellent agreement with well-behaved compounds; the structure in this case is likely to be a real beast in this regard. People sometimes submit duplicate batches to multiple vendor labs hoping one will be consistent with the expected. This fact makes it quite certain that the ‘just’ and ‘make up’ aren’t just strange syntax/language issues.