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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dark data about dark matter

Geoff Brumfiel, Physicists aflutter about data photographed at conference, Nature News, September 2, 2008.  Excerpt:

An Italian-led research group's closely held data have been outed by paparazzi physicists, who photographed conference slides and then used the data in their own publications.

For weeks, the physics community has been buzzing with the latest results on 'dark matter' from a European satellite mission known as PAMELA (Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics). Team members have talked about their latest results at several recent conferences (see Nature 454, 808; 2008), but beyond a quick flash of a slide, the collaboration has not shared the data. Many high-profile journals, including Nature, have strict rules about authors publicizing data before publication.

It now seems that some physicists have taken matters into their own hands. At least two papers recently appeared on the preprint server showing representations of PAMELA's latest findings (M. Cirelli et al., and L. Bergstrom et al.)....

The preprints fully acknowledge the source of the data and reference the presentation photographed.

Piergiorgio Picozza, PAMELA's principal investigator and a physicist at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, says he is "very, very upset" by the data being incorporated into a publication. But Cirelli maintains that he and others have done nothing wrong. "We asked the PAMELA people [there], and they said it was not a problem," he says.

Photography or videotaping of conference presentations is common in some fields, such as biology, but is relatively rare in physics. Falkowski says he can't recall another case. Still, he says, "I personally don't find anything wrong with it."

Also see the growing number of comments at the end of the article.  There are more comments here, here, and here.