I'm a Scientist and the Beryllium Fraud
Starting this week, I have been part of "I'm a Scientist — Get me out of here", a very interesting science communication experiment, in which 8000 school kids and 100 scientists meet online (in 20 different places) to discuss what science means for them, and what is important about that (I try to keep track of it here).
The discussions so far have mainly been questions by the kids to which the scientists tried to reply (see my done and to do lists), and what I am missing a bit is an element to go into the opposite direction as well. So this post shall serve as an example for that, using one of the questions that came up repeatedly (and very prominently in the first chat I had): The reliability of scientific data, or fraud in science.
To make it more fun, I decided to take an image from a published scientific article that is freely available on the web, to modify it slightly, and to give the modified version to the kids, along with the task of finding the original, since this closely mimics the task of finding plagiarism, an important subset of scientific fraud. I note that the students are allowed to ask anyone (including their granny or their Twitter followers) to help with finding the original (that's how the scientific community usually detects fraud — the task is generally too daunting for an individual).
Where to start? One of the things that I noticed so far is that the ten "themed" zones (e.g. Imaging, Brain, Evolution or Genes) get a lot of themed questions, whereas my zone (Beryllium) has had none about Beryllium so far (and most of the scientists therein, including me, probably wouldn't have much to say about it anyway), so I was looking for some figures related to Beryllium. The result is embedded below. What is the original?
I encourage taking notes collaboratively via this document (in which anyone can type or paste anything they want), and the first one to put the link to the original figure in there shall receive ten percent of the prize money I get (which comes down to either £50 or £0, with four other contestants in the Beryllium zone).
UPDATE: The challenge is open until the winners for the June 2010 issue of "I'm a Scientist" are announced. And to see what the candidates in the Beryllium zone plan to do with the money (or the remaining 90% in my case if this challenge gets solved) if they were to win, please take a look here.
UPDATE 2: Ian Sillett, my colleague in the Beryllium zone, has offered that "if I'm lucky enough to win I will honour the £50 prize", which I gladly accepted. This shows one aspect that has been a bit overshadowed by the competition — that science is (or should be) actually about collaboration, on working towards a common goal (in this case communicating science). So with the first eviction having taken place already, the chances to receive these £50 are now about 50%, and they will grow as long as Ian or me remain in the competition. Now you only have to find the original for this image — good luck!
UPDATE 3: Some students didn't know how to behave in the notepad, so I took it off and replaced it by a clean one.