The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: The post below, from September 27, 2010, reports on one of the simplest but most profound scientific papers I have ever read. Its advice is doubly needed today, especially commandment #3.
A scientist’s ten commandments
Published today on the astro-ph website, this preprint by Ignacio Ferrín of the Center for Fundamental Physics at the University of the Andes, Merida, Venezuala, is probably the shortest paper I have ever seen. I think that Dr. Ferrin will forgive me if I reprint it here in its entirety:
1. Go to your laboratory or your instrument without any pre-conceived ideas. Just register what you saw faithfully.
2. Report promptly and scientifically. Check your numbers twice before submitting.
3. Forget about predictions. They are maybe wrong.
4. Do not try to conform or find agreement with others. You may be the first to be observing a new phenomenon and you may risk missing credit for the discovery.
5. Criticism must be scientific, respectful, constructive, positive, and unbiased. Otherwise it must be done privately.
6. If you want to be respected, respect others first. Do not use insulting or humiliating words when referring to others. It is not in accord with scientific ethics.
7. Do not cheat. Cheating in science is silly. When others repeat your experiment or observation, they will find that you were wrong.
8. If you do not know or have made a mistake, admit it immediately. You may say, “I do not know but I will find out.” or “I will correct it immediately.” No scientist knows the answer to everything. By admitting it you are being honest about your knowledge and your abilities.
9. Do not appropriate or ignore other people’s work or results. Always give credit to others, however small their contribution may have been. Do not do unto others what you would not like to be done unto you.
10. Do not stray from scientific ethics.
It seems that some scientists in the climate field (Phil Jones of East Anglia University and Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University are two that come to mind immediately) would benefit by reading and following these rules.