[ASC-list] Bacteria spits out arsenic and scavenges P

Magdeline Lum m.lum at mac.com
Wed Dec 15 03:50:43 UTC 2010


I'm on twitter and I've been following the hashtag #arseniclife and as a science communicator, it's been exciting to watch the conversation evolve. Initially there was a lot of anger directed at NASA due to the absence of an ET announcement. It is no different as to how any other person or organisation has been treated by people on the Internet when they feel that they have been duped.

Not all has been futile from the blogosphere. Following on from Matthew's comments I would like to direct the attention of the critics of bloggers to Rosie Redfield's letter in Science. Her critique of the study started at her blog here, http://rrresearch.blogspot.com/2010/12/arsenic-associated-bacteria-nasas.html and has also provided her letter published in Science here, http://rrresearch.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-letter-to-science.html. There are so many adept and established researchers running blogs and some do indeed prove to be a record and display of the scientific process.

The sounds from #arseniclife now is a public display of the peer review process. The discussion isn't purely "NASA got it so wrong" and much of it links to journal articles and lengthy discussions about the science and reasoning behind conclusions and questions.

When it comes to the initial publication of the flawed study, who knows what really happened. I've been more interested in the reaction from everyone else and the demonstration of research conducted by the blogosphere and twittersphere. Not everyone involved has been an academic and I think this is especially wonderful, particularly if it reminds the PR of science organisations that the lack of a science degree doesn't indicate a lack of scientific understanding.

Guardian's science story tracker has been invaluable in the coverage of news, blogs and articles being created around this.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/dec/02/nasa-life-form-bacteria-arsenic?CMP=twt_gu




> 
> Today's Topics:
> 
>   1. Re: [ExternalEmail] Re: Bacteria spits out arsenic and
>      scavenges P (Matthew.Levinson at csiro.au)
>   2. Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy (Stephan Kern)
> 
> 
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> 
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2010 09:17:21 +1100
> From: <Matthew.Levinson at csiro.au>
> To: <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
> Subject: Re: [ASC-list] [ExternalEmail] Re: Bacteria spits out arsenic
> 	and scavenges P
> Message-ID:
> 	<B039DE0B62CBDE46AB819FC14FA7A72D019121309B at EXNSW-MBX04.nexus.csiro.au>
> 	
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="Windows-1252"
> 
> Do critics of the blogosphere's reaction realise how much of the best science writing is happening on blogs? These aren't (all) undergrads or hobbyists - when they talk about "bloggers", they're talking about top flight science writers and scientists writing for the online arms of Discover, Wired, Seed, etc.
> 
> And the reverse chronology blog feed is a style of writing that's just really well suited to science. Instead of the story beginning and ending with the latest embargoed paper, it's ongoing, updated as new facts come to light - in many cases with writers that are following the journals (often in their own discipline). 
> 
> And in this case, they picked up issues with the paper that virtually all the mainstream media went for. Did having Science and NASA on the stand draw everyone's guards down? Ed Yong was involved right though, and his post-mortem really captures it. It seems like NASA messed up the PR, then got a hint of what a lot of politicians and businesses have seen in the past year or two when the social media world senses it's being taken for a ride.  
> 
> Really interesting case study for anyone interested in the shifting media balance and science communication, that's for sure.
> 
> Matt 
> 
> 
> ________________________________________
> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Helen Sim [Helen.Sim at csiro.au]
> Sent: Monday, 13 December 2010 1:39 PM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> Subject: [ExternalEmail] Re: [ASC-list] Bacteria spits out arsenic and scavenges P
> 
> I don't think there's any doubt about the voracity of the findings, but their veracity is a different matter.
> 
> - H
> 
> On 13/12/10 12:22 PM, Niall Byrne wrote:
> 
> A good topic.
> 
> I don?t think this is a debacle ? it?s just science ? with the blogosphere  over-reacting partly because of a clumsy media alert from NASA that overpromised.
> 
> I liked this comment from the blog you cited.
> 
> ?If question remains about the voracity of these authors findings, then the only thing that is going to answer that doubt is data.  Data cannot be generated by blog discussion? Talking about digging a ditch never got it dug.?
> 
> Science is messy, peer review is messy and sometimes it?s good for us to be exposed to that.
> 
> 
> 
> Niall
> 
> 
> 
> 
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> ________
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> Niall Byrne
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> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au<mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au> [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Susan Kirk
> Sent: Saturday, 11 December 2010 1:49 AM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au<mailto:asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
> Subject: [ASC-list] Bacteria spits out arsenic and scavenges P
> 
> OK well all is good.  Jessie Shore assures me this is the place to communicate.  So lets get started.
> 
> There has been much said this week about the arsenic eating bacteria that apparently means we are inhabiting the earth with extra-terrestrials.  There?s a whole # devoted to it over at twitter.  My question to the whole debacle was, ?If the controls were flawed WHY was the experiment published??
> 
> Here?s a pretty good timeline of the event http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/12/10/arsenic-bacteria-a-post-mortem-a-review-and-some-navel-gazing/
> 
> S
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> ------------------------------
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> Message: 2
> Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2010 09:20:23 +1030
> From: Stephan Kern <SKern at riaus.org.au>
> To: "asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au" <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
> Subject: [ASC-list] Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy
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