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“The paper has been blind peer-reviewed and published in a highly reputable journal, which is the gold standard in scientific corroboration. Thus, all protocol was followed to the letter and the work is officially supported.”

Robert MacDonald points us to this news article by Esther Addley:

It’s another example of what’s probably bad science being published in a major journal, where other researchers point out its major flaws and the author doubles down.

In this case, the University of Bristol has an interesting reaction. It’s pulled down its article praising the research, which is good, but it’s also distancing itself from him. Whereas it was originally very happy to associate itself with this work, now they’re saying it was done independently and has nothing to do with Bristol. I’m actually pretty disappointed in that, partly because they can’t have it both ways but also because it seems (to me) like it weakens the university-faculty relationship.

The author’s response (dripping with arrogance) is a concise summary of the sort of “published research is unquestionable” mentality you’ve been talking about. As quoted in the article:

The paper has been blind peer-reviewed and published in a highly reputable journal, which is the gold standard in scientific corroboration. Thus, all protocol was followed to the letter and the work is officially supported. Given time, many scholars will have used the solution for their own research of the manuscript and published their own papers, so the small tide of resistance will wane.

I find it particularly interesting that he’s arguing not that others will see he’s right, but that other people will start using his results — so I guess the resistance will dry up because his results will become embedded in the fabric of the whole field.

Yup. The research incumbency rule. Just horrible.


  1. DMac says:

    Interestingly the author continues to disseminate the results and implications of his research as if his work were completely accepted and uncontroversial. I received the following email on 1 November through a mailing list I am part of (European Sociological Association).

    ‘Dear List Members,
    Some of you may be interested to know that the translation of a Medieval manuscript page has confirmed the taxonomic identity of the edible lotus plant. It seems that lotus-eating continued in the Mediterranean long after its mention in Greek mythology. A paper is freely available here:

    Please disseminate the information widely, so that other scholars may benefit.’

    • Andrew says:


      Yeah, these people always seem to act as if there’s some larger truth that’s undisturbed by all the problems with their data. I’d guess that Marc Hauser still thinks all his theories are correct and that it was just unfortunate that he had to resort to “fabricated data, manipulated experimental results, and published falsified findings” (in the words of wikipedia, quoting the Office of Research Integrity of the Health and Human Services Department). And I’m pretty sure that Satoshi Kanazawa still believes all that stuff he wrote about sex ratios, despite the statistics being roughly equivalent to determining the major league batting champion based on data from 2 plate appearances. Etc. I suspect that these people feel that they are, or could be, making great discoveries, if it were not for the haters holding them back with red tape regarding data quality, statistical uncertainty, open science, and all that stuff that “second stringers” and “methodological terrorists” care about. These people are Gullivers, tied down by envious Lilliputians like us who can’t handle the truth.

  2. John Hall says:

    It’s interesting how similar this is to the normal process of getting feedback on papers before they are published, such as presenting to academic seminars. There are multiple reasons to present to academic seminars, but one of the most important is to ensure that there are no errors in the methodology and such. Harsh feedback is only intended to get the paper to a better place. However, it can still put some researchers on the defensive and push back, rather than concede errors in the hopes of improving their paper.

    • Martha (Smith) says:


      I remember that, when I was a postdoc, I was presenting a math paper (that I had just finished and submitted for publication) in a seminar, and all of a sudden I realized that there was a hole in the proof. So I just stopped there and said I needed to go back to the drawing board (and then withdrew the paper). It took a couple of months. but eventually I figured out how to patch up the hole (I was probably encouraged by the fact that the theorem already had a published proof, but I couldn’t figure it out so had been trying to give a more understandable proof), and submitted the revised paper for publication, and it was accepted. After that, I found that work in the field referred to the theorem as “proved by X and Y; see also the proof by Martha Smith”, or said, “This work is a generalization of a theorem first proved by X and Y, but we use the methods of Martha Smith’s later proof.”

  3. Shravan says:

    The journal’s web page has this lovely description of the author:

    “Dr. Gerard Cheshire has recently completed his doctorate, expounding an adaptive theory for human belief systems, and is now a Research Associate with University of Bristol. The solution to the codex of MS408 was developed over a 2-week period in May 2017 after he came across the manuscript for the first time whilst conducting research for his PhD dissertation. Having deciphered the writing system, he subsequently realized the significance of the manuscript to Romance linguists and Mediaeval historians, and so decided to publish the information.”

    This review on a blog is also worth reading:

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