A colleague asks:
When I search the web, I find the story [of the article by Said, Wegman, et al. on social networks in climate research, which was recently bumped from the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis because of plagiarism] only on blogs, USA Today, and UPI. Why is that? Any idea why it isn’t reported by any of the major newspapers?
Here’s my answer:
1. USA Today broke the story. Apparently this USA Today reporter put a lot of effort into it. The NYT doesn’t like to run a story that begins, “Yesterday, USA Today reported…”
2. To us it’s big news because we’re statisticians. [The main guy in the study, Edward Wegman, won the Founders Award from the American Statistical Association a few years ago.] To the rest of the world, the story is: “Obscure prof at an obscure college plagiarized an article in a journal that nobody’s ever heard of.” When a Harvard scientist paints black dots on white mice and says he’s curing cancer, that’s news. When Prof. Nobody retracts an article on social networks, that’s not so exciting. True, there’s the global warming connection. I think it’s possible the story will develop further. If these statisticians get accused of lying to Congress, that could hit the papers.
Basically, plagiarism is exciting to academics but not so thrilling to the general public if no celebrities are involved. I expect someone at the Chronicle of Higher Education
3. One more thing: newspapers like to report things that are clearly news: earthquakes, fires, elections, arrests, . . . If criminal charges come up or if someone starts suing, then I could see the court events as a hook on which to hang a news story.
Any other thoughts?