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Confirm, And Confirm Again

March 2, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 9

It was kind of depressing to read the latest developments at the University of Utah regarding the investigation of a paper published in the journal Nano Letters (C&EN, Nov. 17, 2014, page 9). This event should serve as a lesson worth keeping in mind for life as a warning alarm.

Scientific researchers in universities play a key role in advancing human knowledge and in educating and nurturing the next generation of scholars and professionals. In the process of scientific research, when a new, interesting, and important experimental observation is made in a laboratory, a properly trained scientist involved in the activity should take a closer look at the result(s) to carefully examine the data and related evidence, and finally to confirm what may be taking place.

Although interpretation and understanding of a new phenomenon might not be complete at the time, at minimum, it should be everyone’s obligation to make sure the experimental observation can be repeated and the data and evidence are reproducible. The iterations of thinking, doing, understanding, and writing are also a measure of quality assurance for the investigation effort.

To quote investor Warren Buffett, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Let every one of us in the scientific community do our due diligence when conducting and publishing research, and let us collectively strive to maintain the integrity of the scientific enterprise at the highest possible level.

Charles Rong
Adelphi, Md.


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