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The Paper of My Enemy Has Been Retracted

The paper of my enemy has been retracted
And I am pleased.
From every media outlet it has been retracted
Like a van-load of p-values that has been seized
And sits in star-laden tables in a replication archive,
My enemy’s much-prized effort sits in tables
In the kind of journal where retraction occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected articles and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities,
Pausing to remember all that thoughtful publicity
Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy’s article—
For behold, here is that study
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seeminly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The paper of my enemy has been retracted
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His cool new experiments?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad theories
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Evilicious Edsels of pseudoscience,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim paper with its understated abstract
Bathes in the blare of the brightly promoted Air Rage Paper,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper
Of Ovulation and Voting,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all p-hacking and pretense,
Is there with the Collected Works of Marc Hauser—
One Hundred Years of Research Misconduct,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Edward Wegman’s Wikipedia cribs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
‘The simplex method visits all 2d vertices.’

Soon now a paper of mine could be retracted also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of correction has been meted out
To the paper of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own study it will be due
To a miscoded variable, a confusion over data—
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The paper of my enemy has been retracted
And I am glad.

(Adapted from the classic poem written by the brilliant Clive James.)


  1. matt says:

    Andrew Gelman for US poet laureate.

  2. Jim Savage says:

    I’m so happy you’re a Clive James fan. Even still, ‘Postcards’ tells the story of American cities better than any travel guide.

  3. Jonathan (another one) says:

    “It is not enough that I succeed – others must fail.” (Variously attributed but probably stemming from a Maugham-root.)

  4. Shecky R says:

    …quoth the Maven, ‘Nevermore’

  5. Peter W says:

    Now this is what should be analyzed in English classes.

  6. gwern says:

    “What is best in life, Andrew?”

  7. Roy T says:

    Very interesting. I’m not familiar with Clive James but I wonder if the idea from his poem came from Proverbs 24:

    17 Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
    and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble,
    18 or else the Lord will see it and be displeased,
    and turn away his anger from them.

  8. Emmanuel Charpentier says:

    Andrew :

    > I have that problem, common to academics, of being obsessive about assigning credit.

    “Lesser artists borrow ; great artists steal.” Igor Stravinski

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