Gregg Easterbrook is an idiot, and also an asshole
I know, what's new, right? I've never actually read anything he's written about politics. I only read his football column because he leaves politics out of it for the most part. Or if he does inject anything political into it, I just skip it (actually, I usually skip about 90% of the column - mostly, I just like to read what gets written about my favorite team, because I'm provincial like that).
Anyway, one thing he does is pepper the column with little rants about random, seemingly stupid things. Okay, nothing wrong with that. It's not like I don't do that here. However, most of the time, there actually are reasonable explanations for the things he complains about, but he's either not smart enough to understand that, or he's intentionally ignoring it in order to make himself look clever.
What really irritated me this week was the following:
Today's TMQ Is 6,678 Words and Has a Single Author, Which Makes Me 152 Times as Productive as an Author in Science Magazine
A running amusement of modern science and medicine is the practice of many people, sometimes dozens, signing their names to a research paper. This is done so that all signers can take credit for the paper on their CVs, and all get brownie points whenever the paper turns on in a citation index. When the list of authors is long and the article itself is short, the practice becomes comic. Check this article in a recent Science magazine, technical journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Listing 28 authors, the article is 1,225 words long -- that's 44 words per author! Either people put their names on this article solely for citation-index credit, or each of the 28 authors was assigned to write two sentences. ("Nigel, you write the introduction to the third paragraph. Gina, we need you for a transitional sentence in the conclusion. Phillipe, you supervise the adverbs…") Since no one believes for a minute that a 1,225-word article actually was written by a 28 people, why do prestigious scientific journals go along with this silliness?
For those of you not in the know, scientific authorship has nothing to do with the actual writing of the words. It's about who did the work that produced the data described in the paper. Authorship is not granted just so a person can "get brownie points." It's done to give credit to whoever did the work (which, incidentally, usually amounts to several person-years, as opposed to his column, which probably takes only a day or two, at most). In fact, most of the time, no one but the first and last authors has anything to do with the actual writing at all. Granted, 28 authors is a lot, even for a scientific paper, but we have no idea what the subject matter is.
So, does Easterbrook not know this, or is he just ignoring it because he knows most of his readership won't know it, and therefore will think he's really funny and clever? I honestly can't tell. At best, he's just an idiot who's too lazy to be bothered with a little simple fact-checking, and at worst, he's dishonest. Also, what really pisses me off even more is that the whole paragraph reads like the words of a bully who thinks it's funny to make fun of the geeks. You'd think an adult would be beyond that, but then, you have to remember his political persuasion, and you realize it's not surprising because bullying is standard operating procedure. *sigh*