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Planet Earth

A Retraction and a Deletion

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerMarch 12, 2006 3:24 AM


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In trying to navigate the new ethical territory of blogging, I've decided to delete part of one of my posts. The full explanation is below. Last week the story about the Turkish "quadruped" family was in circulation. I pointed to an article in which a Turkish scientist made an accusation of unethical payments against English scientists and a television company. When one of the English scientists, Nicholas Humphrey, complained in the comments that I was spreading "empty gossip," I updated the post with a partial retraction, apologizing for not following up on the accusation. However, I rebuted the claim that I was passing on empty gossip, and I raised some additional questions about the ethics of the undertaking. Dr. Humphrey and I have been exchanging some email since then, from which I've gathered that some people--including some reporters--have misread what I wrote. They're under the impression that I reported ethical and financial hanky-panky going on. In fact, I was pointing out some ambiguities that raised my concern. When Dr. Humphrey provided me with information clarifying the situation, I immediately posted it. But that apparently has not prevented some people from carelessly misreading my post. I believe that serious ethical issues must be considered whenever scientists work closely with television productions. But I do not want to be involved in the spread of this sort of damaging misinformation, even passively. Given how things have devolved, it seems like tacking on additional explanations is not going to rectify the situation. So I've decided to delete my discussion of the topic. It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best I can think of.

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